The Truth About Salt

You remember that old story about the king’s daughter saying she loved him like meat loves salt? Well, that’s the kind of relationship our bodies have with it. Too much and you get blood pressure and heart problems. Too little and you get weakness, spasms and cramps.

For the longest time I thought of salt as something that just adds flavour to food. But when new-age health experts started touting the benefits of Himalayan pink, and sea salt, I switched sides, virtuously adding them to everything I ate.

But earlier this year I started feeling very tired, like achingly, bone-crushingly tired. So, when a friend (thanks Akash Yadav) suggested that the tiredness could have something to do with the lack of iodine in these new salts, it was like a eureka moment. Now, after a few months of eating iodized salt and iodine-rich kelp supplements (more on that in another post), I’m feeling like my old self again.

As Indians we are all deficient in iodine. It’s not because there’s something genetically wrong with us, its just that our soil is deficient in this mineral. Among other things iodine also helps keep our thyroid in balance. In fact, just a couple of weeks back when another woman was complaining about her TSH being high, I asked if she took Himalayan pink salt. “Always,” she said.

Now,  I’m not saying that iodized salt is the answer to all problems. I’m just saying that all the other salts have no scientific backing to prove their claims. Here’s what I found:

  1. Himalayan Pink Salt: It is claimed that this wonder salt contains 84 trace elements and minerals, however there is no proof that these minuscule amounts make any difference. Conversely, it also contains radioactive substances like uranium and poisons like thallium. If such tiny amounts of minerals can be nutritious, then surely the other substances can also be harmful.
  2. Sea Salt: It’s different from table salt only because of taste. In fact, both sea and table salts contain the same amount of sodium. If you take into account the pollution of our oceans then sea salt may also be harmful because it is bound to contain the same pollutants.
  3. Black Salt: Just like the other salts it’s primarily sodium chloride with bits of others elements including sulphides that give it a pungent, savoury flavour. Again, there is no study to proves that it’s better than common table salt. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s good for gastric issues.

The American Heart Associaton recommends that 1,500 mg of sodium is ideal for a day. That means a little more than half a teaspoon. Compare that to the salty foods you eat on a daily basis and you’ll understand why we all have high blood pressure and heart problems.

So stick to the old fashioned iodized version and keep a check on how much you eat everyday. Because despite the fancy new-age variations, salt is just salt.


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