Mineral Rich Varieties of
Salt Benefit Your Health
Health campaigners reckon that it's a recipe
for high blood pressure – but some mineral-rich varieties
can actually benefit our health.
When it comes to matters of health, salt has got bad press.
It's that cheap condiment and hidden food flavouring with the
hidden health risks. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it can strain
your heart and blood pressure, bringing that fateful day a little
closer. Studies indicate it might also increase your risk of
brittle bones and other ailments.
But some experts argue that salt could be just what we need
for healing, health and longevity. Modern salt, they agree,
is unhealthy. But common table salt has almost nothing in common
with traditional salt, say the salt connoisseurs. Just look
at the rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt, or the
grey texture of Celtic salt – both pride themselves on
traditional harvesting, avoiding heat treatment or refining
methods – and you know you're getting something special,
not least that when you taste them, they actually have flavour.
And unlike the sodium chloride you find on most kitchen tables,
unrefined rock salt contains more than 84 different minerals.
"These mineral salts are identical to the elements of
which our bodies have been built and were originally found in
the primal ocean from where life originated," argues Dr
Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt,
The Essence of Life. "We have salty tears and salty perspiration.
The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids
are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn
babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid."
Historically, these mineral salts were the commodities that
trade routes and cities such as Saltzberg grew up around. Once
known as "white gold", salt was, and still is, essential
for virtually all biological processes. Without mineral salts,
says Dr Hendel, there would be no movement, memory or thought
and your heart wouldn't beat.
"In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions," explains
Dr Hendel. "These conduct electrical nerve impulses that
drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple
act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions
that come from mineral ions. They're also needed to balance
PH levels in the body."
Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your
body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions,
remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long
been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a
hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and
patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing
air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms
in 90 per cent of cases.
Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much
salt, may be to blame for health problems. It's a view that
is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon
Health Sciences University in the US.
He says salt has always been part of the human diet, but what
has changed is the mineral content of our food. Instead of eating
food high in minerals, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, people
are filling themselves up with "mineral empty" processed
food and fizzy drinks.
Due to modern farming methods, fruit and vegetables are much
lower in minerals than they once were. Meanwhile, table salt
is stripped of all minerals save for sodium and chloride. These
changes, he believes, are responsible for the current prevalence
of high blood pressure.
Nutritionist Patrick Holford goes one step further. He claims
that high-sodium table salt has more to account for than just
high blood pressure and heart disease and can actually create
mineral imbalances that lead to health problems. "Minerals
work together and need to be balanced," he explains. "For
example, potassium and magnesium works with sodium to regulate
water balance and nerve and muscle impulses. The more sodium
you eat, the more potassium and magnesium you need. Few of us
eat enough of these, yet we eat high amounts of sodium in salt.
This leads to potassium and magnesium deficiency, where muscles
become tight, nerves become over stimulated and you feel more
As magnesium is involved in maintaining bone density and hormone
balance, low levels may compromise bone strength and lead to
premenstrual problems. That's where swapping table salt for
mineral-rich salt can make a difference.
"A lot of people say salt is bad, but bad salt is bad,"
says Amanda Nelson, founder of The Natural Salt Seller. "If
you put a fish in table salt solution, it will die. Good salt,
on the other hand, can be wondrous."
But can you have too much of a good salt? Current guidelines
on salt consumption are to eat no more than 6g daily. However,
most of us eat 10g of salt a day. Nelson suggests lowering your
salt intake to 6g, whatever form of salt you eat.
Holford agrees. "Take care not to use too much salt of
any sort," he says. "A large amount of the salt we
eat comes from processed food, and it's the unhealthy sodium-rich
type. So cut down on processed food as much as possible."
How it can heal
PMS: Mineral-rich salts can help ease PMS in two ways. The
muscle-relaxing effects of magnesium combined with potassium,
which helps the body get rid of excess water, can ease water
retention and relieve muscular tension.
JOINT PROBLEMS: Minerals have an alkalising effect on the
body. Natural health practitioners such as Louise Hay have observed
that this has an anti-inflammatory effect, easing painful conditions
such as arthritis.
BACK PAIN: Whether you eat or bathe in them, mineral-rich
salts tend to relax. This is largely due to magnesium, which
is needed for muscles to relax. Low levels of magnesium are
associated with muscle cramps. Replacing table salt with a good
mineral salt could help alleviate these.
BONE STRENGTH: Unrefined rock salts are rich in minerals needed
for bone strength. Apart from calcium, bones use phosphorus,
magnesium and other minerals as building materials.