By Mikaela Duffy
This week has been salt awareness week, and is a topic I often discuss in clinic. There are many different salts on the market, and conflicting ideas around safe consumption levels.
It is important to remember there is a world of difference between table salt (the regular salt found on supermarket shelves, and added to most convenience foods) and the natural salts found in fruits and vegetables, and more ‘natural’ salts such as Himalayan and Celtic sea salts. But which salt is best for us? Do we have specific needs for types and quantities of salt in our diet?
Salt is an essential mineral, and supports the nervous system, cellular communication, regulation of blood pressure and hydration. ‘Wherever salt goes, water follows’ is a phrase I commonly use to explain why we need some salt to allow water to be transported across the cell membrane and inside of our cells. Without that, drinking water, however much, will not hydrate us, and can possibly put pressure on the kidneys and create fluid retention in some cases.
Eating good amounts of naturally occurring salt in fruits and veggies is important, as they also contain other electrolytes and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, and these minerals all work in synergy together.
In terms of salts to add to foods, commonly known types are Table, Himalayan and Celtic salt, the differences between these being :
TABLE – around 97% sodium chloride, made by refining sea salt, and found in many convenience foods. Contains chemicals and anti-caking compounds, and contributes to elevated blood pressure when used in excessive amounts.
HIMALAYAN – naturally occurring, mined in Pakistan rather than the Himalayas, derived from ancient sea or lake salts. Mineral composition varies due to a number of sites for mining, but contains a broad range of over 80 minerals including sodium, potassium, magnesium and iodine.
CELTIC SEA SALT – salt extracted from sites in UK, Iceland, and USA. Process is achieved by boiling sea water until crystallized to produce flakes. Modern day techniques mean often an aluminium container is used rather than a traditional clay pot, which potentially creates other issues such as risk of heavy metal overload.
MURRAY RIVER SALT FLAKES – sustainably extracted pink salt that is full of minerals such as magnesium and calcium from the Australian Murray River ancient inland sea. Not only is this is a healthier option for salt, but it is helping to save the Australian Murray River from excess salinity.
In summary, it is best to use a naturally occurring salt such as Himalayan, in moderation, on a regular basis to improve overall health. Children should be exposed to only small amounts of salt, as they should obtain what they need from their food. This also goes for the mineral iodine, which is a common deficiency throughout the world. Iodine rich foods such as fish, seafood, seaweeds, animal products including dairy and eggs provide minerals and iodine in the diet. Not forgetting other ways to add nutrients, minerals and flavour to food, through the use of fresh and dried herbs and spices on a regular basis.
By Mikaela Duffy