Salt To salt or not to salt… that is the question. Many are under the impression that salt is bad for our health. However, the fact is that it actually contains essential trace minerals necessary for many metabolic functions in the body. Salt varies from different sources, so which salt is best? Let’s undress this issue to find out the benefits of sodium, which salt looks good naked, and how to spot the big troublemakers that may be lurking in your cupboard. 

Undressing Sodium

I remember in high school chemistry, sodium was just an element on the Periodic Table. Now that I deal with preventative health involving nutrition on a cellular level, it’s a big concern. There is a big marketing focus these days on low-sodium food. It seems like everyone is telling us that sodium is bad. Many people even believe that sodium is so bad it should be eliminated from our diet altogether. This is not true. Let me assure you, sodium is a vital mineral, one that the body needs to be able to function. Some of the reasons sodium is important include:

  • It helps to ensure a proper pH balance
  • It helps regulate the amount of water in our bodies
  • It helps our nerves function
  • It helps regulate blood pressure
  • It helps our muscles contract

If we have too much sodium OR if we don’t have enough sodium, these areas of the body can become out of whack and malfunction. The problem is that many people today are consuming way too much sodium and it is the overconsumption that is causing problems. The truth is that we need to consume healthy forms of sodium and appropriate amounts. Let’s have a look at which types are healthy and which ones are not. In addition let’s have a look at how much sodium we need.

What’s in your shaker? Undressing the different types of salt.

Let’s undress table salt, sea salt, Celtic sea salt, and Himalayan crystal salt to see which ones look good naked and which ones we should leave on the shelf at the grocery store.

1. Iodize table salt

Table salt is a highly refined product. It is heated under high heat to remove moisture. Unfortunately, this process also removes the important trace minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium. This leaves us with a final product of 98% dried sodium chloride plus 2% additives. Some of the additives include:

  • Dextrose (sugar) which is used to prevent oxidation
  • Baking soda to keep salt looking white
  • Aluminum to prevent clumping

Long term exposure and accumulation of aluminum is hazardous to our health because it deposits in the brain and can interfere with neurotransmitter signals. Some scientists believe that this may eventually lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Table salt also contains added potassium iodide, which helps to regulate the thyroid. Iodine is a trace mineral naturally found in salt before it has been processed and the iodine removed, but in smaller quantities. It was added back into table salt decades ago because of nutrient deficiencies when a significant number of people began developing goiters. The annoying thing is that when they refine this salt they remove over 80 trace minerals, iodine being one of them, however they only put the iodine back in. This is frustrating… If you are looking for ways to increase iodine consumption in your diet, table salt is not the answer. This is because it is so highly processed, is void of many important nutrients that you can get from other healthier salts, and contains toxic elements like aluminum. Healthy food choices for iodine consumption are seaweeds like Arame, Kombu, Wakame, Dulse, Kelp, or Nori. These yummy fresh sea vegetablesare natural sources containing Iodine. You can for example, keep a shaker of granulated or ground dulse, kelp or nori on your table instead of a salt shaker and sprinkle in fresh salads or on any meal. Other food sources of iodine include yogurt, eggs, and strawberries. Remember moderation is a key role in balance.

2. Sea salt

Sea salt is harvested from seawater through an evaporation process where salt is collected in drying trays of ocean water. The term “sea salt” just means that it comes from the sea. This is a bit misleading since most salts come from the sea. The key is whether or not they have been processed. Here is a helpful tip, have a look at the sea salt. If it is pure white in colour, it has been processed and will be void in many important nutrients. You want it to have a slight brownish tint (like the one found in Celtic sea salt) or a slight pinkish tint (like that found in Himalayan salt). Therefore, be careful when choosing sea salt and look for the word unrefined,as some sea salts are refined during washing and boiling processes which removes the important trace minerals. We also want to make sure we get sea salt from a good source because our oceans are becoming more toxic and we don’t want our salt to contain harmful toxic metals like mercury.

3. Celtic Sea Salt

Naturally moist, this is a salt harvested from the Atlantic seawater off the coast of Brittany, France. Celtic sea salt is naturally air and sun-dried in clay ponds and then carefully gathered with wooden tools to preserve the living enzymes. It is not processed and contains a minimum of 75 beneficial trace minerals and live elements found in seawater with no additives or preservatives.

4. Himalayan Salt

Himalayan salt is 250 million years old. It comes from ancient sea beds in the salt caves of the Himalayan region. It is an extremely pure and natural salt. This ancient secret does more than just add zing to your food, as its many healing components are extraordinary. Also, Himalayan salt contains all 84 trace elements important for our health.

My Salt of Choice

In conclusion, unprocessed Celtic sea salt and Himalayan salt are both great choices. They are high in trace minerals and do not deliver harmful elements to the body.

Importance of Trace Minerals in Salt

Healthy salt is important for our bodies because it contains trace minerals, which are necessary for many physiological functions. Trace minerals can powerfully affect our health within minutes of ingestion. All of the healthy trace minerals in Celtic sea salt and Himalayan salt have an important role in our health. To mention just a few, chromium helps metabolize glucose and regulate blood sugar; copper and cobalt help with the formation of red blood cells; zinc is essential for digestion, metabolism, and reproduction; iodine is important for thyroid function; etc.

Other ways to enjoy the benefits of Celtic Sea Salt and Himalayan Salt:

  • After a long flight you can mix some Himalayan or Celtic sea salt with water to help with jet lag and re-energize yourself. Talk about bouncing back and enjoying your trip!
  • Mix with water for a slight exfoliation of the skin.
  • It can help prevent gums from bleeding with a little gargle.
  • You can also mix some salt in boiling water and use it as a steam inhaler as it can help alleviate chronic respiratory illnesses.
  • Gargle with salt and water to help with a sore throat.
  • Mix some in water after a long workout to help replenish electrolyte balance.

Himalayan and Celtic sea salt are our friends with benefits and a great addition to your spice collection, as they will do more than just compliment your next meal.

Calculating your salt intake

Added salt should be taken in moderation or better yet, eliminated completely because about 3/4 of the salt consumed comes in the form of hidden salt in preserved and packaged foods. According to the Institute of Medicine, about 77% of our sodium intake comes from salt added during the processing of food. These usually consist of sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate and salt. Here is an idea of how much healthy sodium we should consume on a daily basis.

Age Group                  Adequate Intake                           Tolerable Upper Intake Level 14 – 50 years                       1500 mg (1.5 grams)                     2300 mg (2.3 grams)

51 – 70 years               1300 mg (1.3 grams)                     2300 mg (2.3 grams)

> 70 years                    1200 mg (1.2 grams)                     2300 mg (2.3 grams)


Therefore, at the upper limit of 2300mg per day, each main meal should not exceed 600mg of sodium and each snack should not exceed 150mg. This is assuming you consume 3 meals and 3 snacks daily.

Here is a list of some processed foods and their sodium content:

  • 1 can of Campbell’s Beef Dumpling and Vegetable Soup – 1600mg of sodium
  • 4 slices of Natural Selections Oven Roasted Turkey Breast – 570mg of sodium
  • 1 BigMac – 1270mg of sodium
  • 1 Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken from McDonalds – 820mg of sodium. Southwest Salad Dressing – 340mg of sodium. Total per meal = 1160mg of sodium.
  • ¼ package of Club House Gravy – 380mg of sodium

Not only do these processed foods have extremely high sodium content, they are not using healthy forms that will be rich in trace minerals. Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid processed foods and instead get your sodium from healthy Celtic sea salt and Himalayan salt. To give you an example of how much you need, 1 tsp of salt contains roughly 2300mg of sodium. Therefore, you would not want to consume more than a tsp of salt per day, assuming you are not eating any processed foods that already contain salt. One additional and interesting tid-bit about salt is that salt cravings are affiliated with poor adrenal function. Maybe that’s why when feeling a little down or frustrated we crave salty foods!

Salt Converter Table: How much is in ______?

This is a table to give you an idea of the equivalent value of  salt to sodium and how to compare it when measuring with a teaspoon. Click Here for more info.

Quick Sodium and Salt Converter Table

Salt in grams Sodium in mg This is roughly equivalent to
1 400 Good pinch of salt
1.25 500 One-quarter of a teaspoon salt
2.3 920 One-third of a teaspoon salt Lower limit of the RDI
2.5 1000 Half a teaspoon salt
4 1600 ¾ of a teaspoon salt
5 2000 One teaspoon salt Aim for this as your maximum day’s intake
6 2400 1¼ teaspoons salt Upper limit of the RDI
10 4000 2 teaspoons salt
12 4800 2½ teaspoons salt Average intake upper end

So 5 grams of salt is equal to 2000mg of sodium, both of which are contained in one teaspoon of salt. If a recipe calls for one teaspoon of salt and serves 4 people, you’re getting one-quarter of a teaspoon of salt from it or around 500mg sodium.

Time for a scavenger hunt!

As you saw above, the main culprit in the sodium problem is processed foods. They are extremely high in sodium to help with preservation and taste. Also, the salt that is used is processed and nutrient depleted. These foods are usually the very thing that puts our sodium levels into dangerous ranges and can lead to various health problems like high blood pressure, fluid retention, cellulite, arthritis, gout, kidney/gall bladder stones, etc. An interesting exercise would be to raid your cupboard, having a look at anything that comes in a box, can, or bag and see how much sodium it contains. Here is a list of places to start the hunt:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Soups
  • Condiments
  • Canned foods
  • Prepared mixes
  • Take out meals
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Pickled foods
  • Smoked foods
  • Breads

In Conclusion:

Eating fresh is the best way to avoid excess sodium intake. Sodium is essential for our body and the source we should get it from is either unrefined Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt. Use salt sparingly to keep sodium consumption in a healthy range. Lastly, remember to throw some over your right shoulder for good luck! Let us know your comments about this article! We want to hear your views on salt. Also, be sure to share this on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about salt and help friends find the answer to the question: to salt or not to salt?