Salt of the Earth

Himalayan Sea Salt in wooden bowl with scoop.

You might not have given much thought to the salt you use. Many people just buy a big box of iodized table salt and use it for the next year. But when it comes to your health, it pays to be pickier about salt, and the right salt is an easy way to up the nutrition in everything you cook.

Manufacturers decided long ago that we equate white foods with purity, hence white flour, bleached toilet paper, and refined salt. Natural salt isn’t white; it’s sometimes pink, or grey or even slightly blue, but never pure white. So manufacturers put salt through a bunch of chemical processes, including bleaching, to come up with white refined table salt. The natural minerals are stripped out in the process, then other stuff is added — anti-caking agents and sometimes iodine.

Natural salts are the easy choice

Natural salts — whether mined or collected through the evaporation of salt water — contain trace amounts of up to 84 essential minerals. These include potassium and magnesium, both of which work to balance out your body’s sodium levels, helping regulate hydration. Those minerals help balance pH and lower blood pressure.

One thing to keep in mind, however: Natural salts don’t have less sodium than refined salt. So if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, simply switching to natural salt won’t make a difference.

Here are my favorite choices:

Himalayan Pink Salt

Himalayan salt is mined from mountain locations — former seas, now high up in the Himalayas. This pretty pink salt has all 84 of the essential minerals. It has the very best electrolyte profile, which means it helps maintain balanced pH in the body.

Celtic Salt

Celtic sea salt is similar in mineral value, but instead of being mined, Celtic salt is harvested from the sea. It is raked by hand, then left to dry in the sun.  Compared to Himalayan salt, one potential difference is that today’s oceans are subject to more environmental damage and pollution than ancient seas. While there’s no hard evidence that these toxins make their way into harvested Celtic salt, it’s something to bear in mind.

But don’t I need iodine?

Table-salt companies think we need extra iodine in our diet — it was first added in the 1920’s to help prevent goiter! But we can get plenty of iodine from a well rounded diet. Strawberries, cod, eggs, shrimp and tuna are all rich in iodine.  Himalayan and Celtic salts have naturally occurring iodine as well. Iodine is just one additive you don’t need.

What about Kosher salt?

Kosher salt doesn’t include additives like iodine or anti-clumping agents. But if your Kosher salt is white in color, it’s also refined, which means all the minerals have been stripped away in the bleaching process.

Try a salt scrub

Another way to use natural salt? Use half salt and half baking soda, adding a little water to create a loose paste. Use as a scrub around your armpits and breasts (men too!). Leave on for about 10 minutes, then shower. The scrubbing and the salt draws toxins from your lymphatic system. You can also use the scrub around your neck or in the groin area, where large clusters of lymph nodes are present.