I did a Daniel Fast last year and eliminated salt from my diet completely for 10 days and everything I ate tasted completely bland. During that time it made me realize how essential salt is to our lives and caused me to spend some extra hours researching all of the many uses and benefits of sea salt.
As I’m sure you’re aware, salt is seen as a very unhealthy substance by many organizations like the American Heart Association. Now I’m not saying you should start shoveling salt into your mouth, but I want to clarify that there is a major difference between processed table salt and real sea salt. A true, unrefined sea salt actually supports the human body in essential ways and can truly be an awesome health promoter.
What is Sea Salt?
All salts (even table salt) originate from a sea or salty body of water, but not all salts on the market today actually come from the oceans in existence today. What does that mean? Salts that are no sea salt are derived from underground salt deposits left behind by seawater at some point.
Sea salt is a type of salt produced from the evaporation of current seawater. The evaporation is accomplished by either open-air solar evaporation or by a quicker vacuum evaporation process. Some of the pricier sea salts available today often come from the slower sun-fueled evaporation method. When you eat a sea salt that has experienced very little processing, you have a salt that conatins health promoting trace minerals. (1) It also has natural flavors and colors that make it a lot tastier and more interesting to use for cooking as well as homemade beauty products.
Sea salt can be either unrefined or refined. I encourage you to look for unrefined sea salt which has more of its inherent health properties. Refined sea salt is washed to strip it of its trace minerals. You also don’t want a sea salt that lists “sodium chloride” as its main ingredient because this means it is just as refined as table salt. Also beware of additives when purchasing sea salt. Unfortunately, some commercial producers of sea salt include health hazardous additives in their final product.
Types of Sea Salt
Two of favorite varieties of sea salt are Himalayan sea salt and Celtic Sea Salt®. There are many other varieties since they are so many salty bodies of water that sea salt can be derived from.
Himalayan Sea Salt
It is claimed by many that Himalayan sea salt is the purest salt available on the planet. With a history dating back to Earth’s creation, it is believed to be composed of dried remnants of the original, primal sea.
Known as “pink gold,” Himalayan crystal salt is actually a beautiful translucent pink and contains all of the 84 elements found in your body. Because of amazing nutrient load, doctors of functional medicine report that regularly eating Himalayan salt can help:
- Regulate the water content throughout your body
- Promote healthy pH balance in your cells (particularly your brain cells)
- Promote blood sugar health and can help reduce the signs of aging
- Assist in the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in your body
- Absorb food particles through your intestinal tract
- Support respiratory health
- Promote sinus health
- Prevent of muscle cramps
- Promote bone strength
- Regulate your sleep
- Support your libido
- Promote vascular health
- Regulate your blood pressure with sufficient water and potassium intake.
Celtic Sea Salt®
Another ancient commodity, Celtic Sea Salt® is comparable to Himalayan crystal salt in its composition and health benefits. Being of a grayish hue, it is naturally harvested in Brittany, France near the Celtic Sea using a 2,000-year old Celtic method that is crucial to preserving its life-giving nutrition profile.
It has been reported that Celtic Sea Salt® is powerfully beneficial for your health and can help: (2)
- Alkalize the body
- Balance blood sugars
- Eliminate mucus buildup
- Build immunity
- Improve brain function
- Increase energy
- Provide electrolyte balance
- Promote restful sleep
- Prevent muscle cramps
- Regulate heartbeat and blood pressure
Interestingly, this salt will retain its moisture and will be moist to touch, in spite of how you store it. Think of this as a gentle reminder of its ocean-source and continual life-giving properties!
Other sea salt options include:
- Fleur de sel or Flor de Sal: French or Portuguese for “flower of salt”, this sea salt gets its name from the patterns of crystals that resemble flowers. This is a salt that forms as a thin, fragile crust on seawater’s surface as it evaporates. Traditionally it was used as a salve and laxative, but today it’s most commonly used for cooking as a finishing salt. (3)
- Flake sea salt (or flaky sea salt): This variety of sea salt can be formed naturally or produced by a variety of methods. Most flake sea salts have thin, flattened crystals which provides more surface area with less mass resulting in a quick dissolving and crunchy salt. It’s said that flake sea salt has a saltier taste but lower trace mineral content than other sea salts. (4)
- Hawaiian sea salt: Hawaiian or Alaea sea salt is a traditional Hawaiian salt. Alae is a natural red volcanic clay that is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide and it also gives this sea salt its distinctive red color. Real Hawaiian salt is pricey and hard to find outside of Hawaii. (5)
- Italian sea salt: This sea salt is derived from the Mediterranean Sea along the coast of Sicily.
Sea Salt vs Table Salt
Table salt is mainly mined from underground salt deposits. It is heavily processed to eliminate healthy minerals. Table “salt” is manufactured by taking natural salt (such as crude oil flake leftovers) and heating it to 1200° Fahrenheit. During this extreme process, the chemical composition is completely altered and all of the nutritional benefits are destroyed.
In the end, generic table “salt” ends up being about 97.5% sodium chloride and a 2.5% balance containing an array of ingredients including: (6)
- Anti-caking chemicals.
- Iodine to prevent goiters.
- MSG and/or white processed sugar to help stabilize the iodine.
- And aluminum derivatives such as sodium solo-co-aluminate.
There are actually 18 food additives that are allowed to be put into table salt. (7) Trust me when I tell you that no one really knows what’s in this stuff and calling it “salt” is a complete mis-representation!
Ultimately, this processed “fake” salt puts people at risk of developing cardiovascular events and chronic disease because of elevated blood pressure and arteriosclerosis. Unlike real salt, processed “salt” will cause your body to retain fluids.Subsequently, it should be no surprised that people who use these products develop diabetes, gout and obesity more than people who don’t. (8)
Additionally, most table “salt” is iodized and puts people at risk for over-iodization, which has been shown to abnormally enlarge the thyroid gland and cause thyroid-related autoimmune disorders. Excess iodine in the diet can also lead to nausea, headaches and unhealthy hormone levels. (9)
So when the American Heart Association (AHA) says that salt is bad for you, I strongly believe that this is correct only when referring to table “salt”, not a high quality unrefined sea salt.
6 Health Benefits of Sea Salt
If we’re talking about REAL salt like Celtic Sea Salt® or himalayan salt then I believe it has many benefits and should be used daily. Why? Because of the life-giving nutrition sea salt contains including:
1. Rich in Trace Minerals
High quality sea salts typically contain 60 trace minerals. In the case of himalayan sea salt, the number is said to be 84! Either way, sea salts are a great source of minerals. It’s become harder and harder to obtain trace minerals from the foods we eat due to the lack of nutrient-rich soil. However, trace minerals are still abundant in our planet’s seas and oceans from which we get a variety of sea salts. (10)
2. Avoid Dehydration and Balance Fluids
Here’s how sodium works within the body: Essentially, water follows salt, which means if you increase sodium too much, water retention also occurs. At the same time, the opposite is also true: A loss in sodium results in a loss in water, potentially causing dehydration and extreme thirst.
By consuming sea salt daily, you also ensure that you maintain sufficient sodium levels which help balance your sodium-potassium ratios. Sodium and potassium are two electrolytes that work together to ensure that there is proper fluid balance in your body’s cells as well as your blood plasma and extracellular fluid. (11)
3. Excellent Electrolyte Source
The minimal processing of unrefined sea salt enables it to retain much of its natural mineral content. Sea can contains many of the major electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium that are absolutely essential to good health. (12)
Electrolytes have so many important functions — from regulating your heartbeat to allowing your muscles to contract so you can move. Sea salt in moderation can help in avoiding an electrolyte imbalance, which can cause all kinds of serious negative symptoms, including some that are potentially deadly.
4. Proper Brain, Muscle and Nervous System Function
As a provider of sodium, sea salt is not just good for, it’s essential for proper brain, muscle and nervous system function. As I already said, sodium is a regulator of water in your body. Sodium is also required for the transmission of electrical signals in the body. Why is this so important? Without the proper transmission of electrical signals in the body so many things can get through off. Without this communication system working as it should, the brain, muscles and nervous systems are especially inclined to suffer. Both too much and too little sodium cause cellular malfunction. So as much as you hear about making sure you don’t get too much salt in your diet, it’s also absolutely just as important to make sure we get enough. (13)
5. Digestive Health Aid
Not getting enough salt in your diet can actually negatively impact your digestive health. If you don’t get enough salt in your diet then this can lead to your body not producing enough hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach. If you have low stomach acid this will seriously throw off your digestive system. Consuming the right amount of sea salt helps your body to produce proper amounts of HCL since sea salt provides chloride, which is the building block of stomach acid. (14)
6. Nutrient Enhancer
Having enough stomach acid also helps our bodies to absorb vitamins and minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, folate, and B12. (15) So consuming a high quality sea regularly can help your body absorb more nutrients from the foods that you eat. This is great news since it’s not only what you eat, but how your body processes what you eat, that gives your body the nutrients it needs on a daily basis.
History of Sea Salt
Salt has always been essential to human life since humans need dietary salt in order to survive. The production of sea salt has been dated all the way back to prehistoric times. Since all salt either comes from dead, dried-up seas or living seas, the history of salt is equivalent to the history of sea salt.
In the sub-Sahara in the 6th century, Moorish merchants regularly traded prized salt in equal amounts (by weight) for gold. Later in 1295, the explorer Marco Polo returned from his travels telling stories of the highly impressive value of salt coins bearing the seal of the Great Khan of the Mongol empire. There were salt trade routes all over the world with the most popular one leading from Morocco south across the Sahara to Timbuktu.
The history of human civilization is said to be directly linked to salt. How so? Animals would create paths to salt licks and men would follow turning trails into roads and settlements would grow beside these roads. As civilizations grew around the world, salt continued to be one of the main items used for trade. The change from a diet salt-heavy game to cereals lead to more salt being needed to supplement the lack of salt in the diet. (16)
Solnitsata was Europe’s earliest known town and it was constructed around a salt production facility. According to archaeologists, Solnitsata accumulated wealth by supplying salt throughout the Balkan Peninsula. (17)
Seal Salt Precautions
Even though sea salt has been health benefits, you don’t want to over do it. Use sea salt in moderation.
If your diet is too high in sodium then more water is excreted by the kidneys and this can cause complications with balancing other essential electrolytes. Symptoms of having too much sea salt include bloating, lethargy, dehydration, weakness, irritability and muscle twitching.
Hypernatremia occurs when there is an imbalance of sodium and water in your body.This condition is more common among infants who have a low intake of breast milk or an intake of formula that was not mixed properly, older adults, people with diabetes or kidney problems, severe burn patients, people who take diuretics and those who eat heavily processed diets. Symptoms can include intense thirst, headache, confusion, irritability, restlessness, and drowsiness. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you may be experiencing hypernatremia. (18)
Always aim to skip the salt found in processed and packaged foods. That’s the kind of salt that causes problems. Sea salt, on the other hand, in moderate amounts daily is truly an awesome health booster in multiple ways. Sea salt is also preferred over table salt by many people (especially in the culinary world) because it’s more flavorful. When you opt for a high quality sea salt, you can actually use the salt shaker guilt-free. You can enjoy how tasty sea salt makes your food while it positively impacts your health — now that’s a win-win situation.