Salt is high on the list of foodstuffs to avoid, right up there with sugar and fat. It's a commonly known fact that salt is bad for us. It can even cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease or stroke.
The American Journal of Hypertension published a meta-analysis of seven studies in 2011 involving a total of 6,250 people. The conclusion was that there was no strong evidence that reducing salt intake lowered the risk of heart attack, stroke or death in people with normal or even high blood pressure. (1)
Also in 2011, the Journal of the American Medical Association released European research that showed that the less sodium measured in people's urine actually corresponded to a HIGHER risk for dying from heart disease. (1)
A large study published back in 1988, Intersalt, examined evidence from 52 international research centers and found no correlation between high sodium intake and the prevalence of high blood pressure. Instead, they found that population that ate the most salt had lower median blood pressure than the population that ate the least salt. (1)
So if there is so much research to indicate that the common knowledge that too much salt in your diet can cause high blood pressure is actually a myth, why do we still believe it?
That is because national institutions that impose our health guidelines, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), are clinging to the notion that we all need to lower our sodium intake, even when the research proves otherwise.
The NIH implemented its National High Blood Pressure Education Program back in 1972 in response to the untested hypothesis that too much salt causes high blood pressure. This hypothesis sprung from a study where high blood pressure was induced in rats by feeding them the human equivalent of 500 grams of sodium per day. (1)
That's almost 150 times the average American daily consumption of sodium. No wonder the rats had an increase in high blood pressure! And there has been no significant or conclusive evidence to this day that a higher salt diet leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, or early death. But I suppose its easier for the national health organizations to continue the same recommendations than admit they were wrong.
So why am I covering this subject in our blog?
That said, not all "salt" out there is the same. So let's talk a little more about the good points of salt.
Salt plays a few vital roles in our body. Foremost is how it allows us a way to maintain proper fluid balance through its functions as an electrolyte. Additionally, salt assists with digestion by causing the release of digestive enzymes and the creation of stomach acid.
And salt itself is a valuable nutrient.
Salt as it exists in nature is quite different from refined sodium chloride commonly used as table salt. Natural salts contain many minerals in addition to sodium, which provide us with valuable nutrition. It is food, and it is healthy for you to eat it.
Someone who shares my passion for salt, and may even exceed it, is my friend Jody Van Buskirk, the founder of SALINITY Salts- from right here in Grants Pass. Jody was kind enough to let me interview her on the subject of her work.
I assume you must like salt? How did you get started with SALINITY?
YES! I love salt! It is not only a delicious and indispensable ingredient in the kitchen, it has a fascinating history that has shaped many cultures. A couple of great reads on salt are "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky and "Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Important Ingredient" by Mark Bitterman.
Jason and I feel it's important to spread the word about the health benefits of salt. Are there any unique health benefits to the salt used by SALINITY?
The base salt of all our blends is sel gris (grey salt) from Guerande, France. It has 84 essential nutrients and minerals (right up there with Himalayan Salt), and a naturally occurring iodine. The sodium chloride content of this particular salt is 84%-85%, much lower than regular table salt at 99% or higher. Our blends have an extremely high herb/spice to salt ratio (each with it's own set of health benefits), therefore SALINTY salts deliver lots of flavor without having to use a lot of it.
You have so many different blends, do you have a personal favorite?
I love all of our infusions, but I tend to gravitate toward Chipotle and Rogue's Heavenly Blue, our blue cheese salt...however, it depends on what I am eating.
Any new blends in development?
Yes, we are working on a couple new blends to be released this fall, early winter including a holiday blend and a mushroom salt.
My thanks to Jody for taking the time to speak with me about the incredible product she and her business partners have created. Jason and I enjoy SALINITY salts, we even keep a jar at the clinic. If you would like to learn more about SALINITY, check out their lovely website or maybe you can catch Jody at the Grower's Market on Saturday and enjoy a sample of this delicious health food.
1. It's Time to End the War on Salt. Scientific American, July 8, 2011.