Ask The Pharmacist: Good salt, bad salt: What’s in your shaker?
Before you reach for the salt shaker, you need to know that the kind of salt you eat matters. Typical table salt found in almost all kitchens and restaurants is similar to the industrial chemical used to de-ice highways. Not very appetizing, is it?
Despite its bad rap as a prime driver of heart disease, good salt is actually an essential component of a healthy diet. Even the mainstream medical establishment is starting to understand that good salt isn’t the bad guy it’s been made out be. In 2010, a study published in JAMA found that (in exactly the opposite of what most of you think about salt consumption), the risk of heart disease and related deaths rises with seemingly modest salt reductions. Yes, rises!
This is troubling when you consider that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines have steadily recommended American reduce their sodium intake, from 6,000 mg per day in the 2005 guidelines to 2,300 mg per day in the 2015 guidelines.
Another 2010 study published by researchers out of Harvard, found a link between a low-salt diet and an increase in insulin resistance, which is the gateway problem that leads to diabetes and obesity.
Table salt is so refined that I consider it a food additive and not a food. It’s high in sodium and chloride only, it has been stripped of life-sustaining minerals like copper, iodine, potassium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, and iron. There is nothing left except sodium chloride. It’s nutritionally naked.
Sea salt is different. Avoiding sea salt (the unrefined kinds) could actually be bad for your health.
Refined table salt (i.e. sodium chloride) is often mixed with chemicals to keep it from clumping up inside your shaker. They may use an anti-caking agents called talc, which is a possible carcinogen found in “baby powder.”
Unrefined sea salt, is not chemically modified in a lab or stripped of its minerals. Be careful because sea salt can also be refined too much. But colorful, unrefined sea salt is essentially water from a sea (or river) that gets evaporated and purified. These types of salts should not dramatically impact blood pressure like table salt, in fact they offer healthy minerals which drive 1000’s of metabolic reactions all day long. I will now list a few salts, but please go to my website to read the longer version of this article which includes other unique salts:
Pink Himalyan salt: The color comes from iron oxide, but this one has over 80 trace minerals, the most of any type of salt.
Red alaea Hawaiian salt: This sea salt starts white but then develops a beautiful rich red color when it’s dried in salt ponds that are lined with red volcanic clay (known as alaea in Hawaiian). That red hue comes from the presence of iron.
Celtic or French grey sea salt: This comes from France, and gets its color from the clay found in the tidal pools where the salt is dried. It is a particularly good source of magnesium.
Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.