Historically, salt has played many roles in our society. Covenants of Salt were what sealed agreements in Biblical times. The word “salary” comes from the practice in Roman times of using salt as payment for the soldiers. The phrase, “He’s not worth his salt,” was used to determine the value of slaves in ancient Greece. The mystics believed that salt had the power to prevent illness, and the Latin saying: “Nil sole et utilius,” or “There is nothing more useful than sun and salt,” supports that belief.
In my house, my mother, who was born in Europe, would toss a bit of salt over her shoulder to bring us good fortune and health. This seems to still be working for her, as she will turn 89 on her next birthday. Since salt has been considered very valuable throughout the ages, it is hard to grasp our society’s vilification of this important nutrient. Unprocessed salt, including the natural amount found in unprocessed foods, is an integral part of the nutrient-dense diets we promote as Nutritional Therapy Practitioners.
WHAT IS SALT?
Sodium and chloride ions combine to make up the chemical composition of salt. Sodium chloride is present in ocean water, and makes up 75% of the “salt” in seawater. In our bodies, sodium chloride teams up with potassium, which is our body’s primary intra-cellular mineral. Sodium is found mostly in extra-cellular tissues.
When these two nutrients are in balance, we have the correct amount of fluid in all of our body’s cells. The chlorides in salt assist the body in producing hydrochloric acid to digest protein and activate enzymes needed to digest carbohydrates.
PERSPECTIVES FROM THE EXPERTS
In an article citing various studies on salt use and its effect on blood pressure, Dr. Paul J. Rosch
of the American Institute of Stress points out that the population that is affected negatively by a higher sodium diet is usually the population of obese individuals. When he separated out the study participants with normal weight, an increase in sodium intake did not necessarily increase blood pressure.
In his book, Staying Healthy with Nutrition,
Dr. Elson Haas states, “Where natural foods are the only sources of sodium, there is almost no hypertension. These foods contain more potassium, which is found in high amounts in plant cells as well as in human cells.” In his section on salt he talks about the controversy around salt intake and its effect on blood pressure. Dr. Haas suggests that some researchers believe the key to controlling blood pressure and hypertension is controlling the potassium-to-sodium ratios. The processed foods most of us eat are generally higher in sodium, and lower in potassium.
Haas suggests we regularly include sea vegetables in our diets. They are “constantly bathed in the mineral-rich ocean water” and are particularly rich in iodine, calcium, potassium and iron.
In Nourishing Traditions,
Sally Fallon points out that “sun dried sea salt contains traces of marine life that provide organic forms of iodine.” She refers to studies that show that this form of organic iodine remains in the body’s tissues longer than iodide salts. Fallon suggests we all use sea salt that is sun dried in grey colored clay lined vats that is sold as Celtic Salt. The Celtic salt is rich in the trace minerals and electrolytes our bodies need. On hot sunny days, instead of drinking electrolyte drinks, I will add a pinch of good quality sea salt to my water bottle which helps to keep my electrolytes in balance.
THE BALANCED APPROACH
As Nutritional Therapy Practitioners and Consultants, we promote eating foods that are less processed and foods with fewer ingredients. One of those ingredients in our processed foods is the refined salt which can upset our sodium/potassium balance. On a simple diet of healthy fats, organic fruits/vegetables, free-range meats, whole grains, and raw dairy, our bodies will be able to have the correct balance of the important electrolytes sodium and potassium. As a general rule, I suggest we do not eat foods that our grandparents would not recognize. Add regular exercise and plenty of pure water and the result is better health and vitality.
About the Author
In 2007 he received his certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Yaakov is currently practicing as a Nutritional Therapist/Herbalist with offices in Eugene and Creswell OR. He is currently working as a Nutritional Health Coach at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage in Eugene, OR. Yaakov is a Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation and a Board member of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. Born and raised in the New York area, Yaakov has made his home in Oregon since 1998. He brings his passion for healthy nutrition and herbal medicine to his practice as a Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist. Yaakov is an avid researcher and writer. He has a regular column in the weekly Creswell Chronicle, and writes for the NTA Newsletter and has been published in The Well Being Journal. He has been involved in the natural products industry for many years as a retailer, manufacturer, and educator. As a Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist, Yaakov uses his knowledge, listening skills and a variety of assessment tools as he supports his clients’ goals of optimum health. Yaakov has participated in the Breitenbush Herbal Conference since 1997 as a volunteer and conference organizer, and has staffed the NW Herb Fest since it’s inception in 2005.