Pass the salt or not to pass the salt, that is the question. This is another area of nutrition confusion. To begin our understanding of this we have to recognize the difference between salt and sodium. Sodium is essential to life. Just as I discussed how the sweet taste coincides with our need for Vitamin C, our tongue also senses salt, so we can get the sodium we need. What does sodium do? It is critical for the ongoing health of every cell in our body. That’s a pretty important job! It is part of the fluid between the cells. Along with its partner potassium, the two minerals balance the nutrient and waste exchange of each cell. Sodium is also in our blood, our lymphatic fluid, and is required for the production of hydrochloric acid so we can digest our food. Sodium is involved in nerve and muscle functioning where it again teams with potassium. It also maintains our body’s fluid balance, electrolyte balance, and pH balance.
You can certainly see that we need sodium. So, where do we get it? There are many places. Healthy sources of natural sodium include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and meat. Unfortunately, the place where most of us get it is refined table salt or sodium added to processed foods. These are unhealthy forms of sodium. Like all other processed or refined foods, they have been stripped of all the naturally occurring minerals. In this case of table salt all that remains are the sodium and chloride. In addition, during the manufacturing process it is chemically cleaned, bleached, and heated so high that the chemical structure changes. Anticaking agents are added so the salt will not mix with water when in your salt shaker. This is fine in the salt shaker, but it does the same thing in your body. The refined salt does not dissolve and combine with the water and fluids in our body. So what does it do? It builds up in the body and leaves deposits in our tissues and organs leading health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, fluid retention, weight gain, headaches, stomach ulcers, and stomach cancer to name a few.
How much sodium do you need? The answer is based on individual needs. As a guideline, the FDA recommended a maximum of 2400 milligrams daily. That is the equivalent of approximately one and a quarter teaspoons of natural salt. Because most of us eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) high in processed and refined foods and low in healthy fruits and vegetables many of us far exceed that level.
One of the big misconceptions about salt is that we need to use salt that is iodized. Iodine is necessary for the thyroid gland to function correctly. Iodine has been added to table salt for that purpose. However, unrefined sea salt, Celtic salt, or Himalayan salt are examples of natural salts that contain many minerals and foods such as ocean fish, kelp, and other sea vegetables also contain iodine. Celtic salt, Himalayan salt, and unrefined sea salt are the healthy salts that I recommend to my clients. For more information on iodine I highly recommend the web site http://www.optimox.com/. One way to determine whether or not you have sufficient iodine is called the iodine patch test. You can Google “iodine patch test” for more information and instructions.
Many people crave salt. That may be an indication that your adrenal glands are stressed out, meaning you are stressed out. According to Chinese medicine salt cravings are a sign of too much sugar or alcohol in the diet and the body’s way to come back into balance. Sometimes salt cravings can be a warning for oncoming hypertension. One of the best sources I know of for learning more about salt is Ann Louise Gittleman’s Get the Salt Out. You can get her book at http://www.unikeyhealth.com/product/Get_The_Salt_Out/Health_Books_Media.
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.