What is Salt?
Common salt, the salt we encounter every day, is mostly made up of the elements Sodium and Chloride, along with smaller volumes of other elements. Salt is crucial to human life and is also a major taste category for the human tastebuds. Salt is added to many foods to take advantage of these tastebuds, forming a major component of savoury foods.
Why Do We Need Salt?
To keep us alive, salt plays the role of an electrolyte and an solute for osmosis in the body. Salt when dissolved into our body fluids allows the electrical communication to occur, creating a way for communication throughout the body to work well. Lack of electrolytes can be seen when we have muscle weakness and cramps. Salt also allows the body to transfer fluids through tissue through osmosis, moving nutrients and building blocks throughout the body! Like a battery, the body needs salt to be fully charged!
Types of Edible Salts
Humans buy salt as a condiment for their foods, and there are three major categories of salt that can be purchased, lab salt (refined table salt), rock salt (mined from salt deposits) and water salts (evaporated from ocean or salty groundwater). There are significant differences between these salts and the impacts of eating each one.
What I call lab salt is commonly called table salt. It is refined in a factory laboratory to remove ALL trace minerals to leave just Sodium (Na) and Chloride (Cl). To make this micronutrient-less salt even worse, it is then fortified with iodide (which is naturally occurring in most natural salts!) and loaded with anti-caking agents. Interestingly, sea salts and rock salts already contain iodine, so they are refining it OUT of this "fake" salt along with the beautiful natural mix of other micronutrients that benefit the human body. The common anti-caking agents used include sodium aluminosilicate (E-number 554), sodium ferrocyanide (535) and potassium ferrocyanide (536) - I'll let you decide if you would like these in your diet.
Another interesting thing to note with table salt, is that it is sometimes formed to look like sea salt in the form of flakes and salt "rocks" - it is still the same salt, this deceptive practice is to confuse the consumer into thinking it is "healthy" salt, avoid these. If the salt is white - it is refined and should be left on the shelf. Be good to your body and feed it real, complete and unrefined salt.
Rock salts are mined salts, mined from old deposits of salt left from ancient oceans and lakes. These are commonly found for sale as Himalayan Rock Salt, there are other rock salts found, but generally not found in Australia. Himalayan Rock Salt has a pink tinge generally, and is found in large crystals and fine crystals for use in cooking and as a condiment. These rock salts are true to source and are 97% Sodium Chloride with the other 3% containing a range of 84 other micronutrients, providing a simple one stop source for the body to gain access to these minerals to keep us healthy.
Ocean and Water Salts
Ocean and water salts are salts evaporated from sea water and salty land based waters. The salty brine is evaporated and then the crystals harvested for the salt. Unfortunately most of these salts are sent for refining and have all the other minerals stripped from them. These salts can contain contaminants from the water source, so when looking for sea salts look for clean versions such as Celtic Sea Salt and Murray River Salt. These salts are harvested from sources that are low-toxin and contain a great variety of micronutrients as well! I met a local man who takes his boat as far as he can offshore from the Sunshine Coast to harvest his own sea water for his own local salt, how cool is that?
Which is Best?
Rock and water salts are best. Of course quality is key, and watch out for deceptive behaviour from companies purporting to be pink salts and rock salts. Throw away any refined salt, it is void of super important minerals for your body, including selenium (helps remove heavy metals from the body), boron (helps prevent osteoporosis) and copper (crucial for forming arteries), plus all the other micronutrients that keep your body battery happy!