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If you are eating a typical American diet, you don’t have to be worried about not getting enough sodium in your foods.  Whether it is for taste, texture, preservation, or to help dough rise, manufacturers are not afraid to dump huge amounts of salt into their processed foods.  But what happens when you cut out those processed foods on a healthy diet, like the foods allowed on The Numbers Don’t Lie Challenge?  Removing all that processed food can actually put you in a situation where you need to add salt to your diet to maintain the healthy balance between it and your potassium levels (more on this next week).  Since you are getting a high dose of potassium from healthy vegetables on this type of diet, you need to restore the balance by adding more sodium to your diet.

The general guidelines for healthy sodium intake are about 1500-2300mg of sodium per day, which translates to about ¼ to ½ a teaspoon.  Even though this seems miniscule, this small amount is essential to your health.

Suppose you are eating a diet composed of 2/3 unprocessed plant foods and 1/3 unprocessed animal foods.  This way of eating will only provide you about 600mg of naturally occurring sodium.  It gets even worse for vegetarians eating a 100% plant based diet.  They would only receive 300mg of sodium eating this way.  These numbers show how little sodium you are actually taking in when you cut out the processed foods and their added salt.  You need to make up for this loss by adding salt.

Sodium is an electrolyte that you need in order to stay properly hydrated.  It also plays a role in nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and cardiac function.  Additionally, it aids in nutrient transport, blood pressure regulation, and tissue growth.

Hyponatraemia is a condition caused by low levels of sodium in the blood. Symptoms are not usually very specific and can include changes to a person's mental state, headaches, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, muscle spasms, and seizures.

Not all salts are the same.  Standard table salt is heavily processed and lacks naturally occurring trace nutrients found in healthy natural salt.  Amanda recommends Pink Himalayan Salt. 

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Pink Himalayan salt is a pink-colored salt extracted from the Khewra Salt Mine, which is located near the Himalaya Mountains in Pakistan. The pink Himalayan salt harvested from this mine is believed to have been formed millions of years ago from the evaporation of ancient bodies of water.   Pink Himalayan Salt gets its color from iron deposits leaching through the rocks in which it is mined. The salt is hand-extracted and minimally processed to yield an unrefined product that's free of additives and thought to be much more natural and healthy than table salt.  It is estimated that it contains up to 84 different minerals and trace elements.

While Pink Himalayan Salt and regular table salt are not very different chemically, they differ greatly in the way they are processed.  While Himalayan salt is mined by hand and ground up and bottled, table salt gets heavily filtered, removing most of any trace elements and minerals it may have contained.  After that, the manufacturers often add calcium silicate as an anti-clumping agent, and dextrose to stabilize any iodine if it is iodized salt.

Additionally, table salt is either evaporated from brine pools or seawater, or mined from rock.  Because of its remote location, Himalayan salt is claimed to be healthier and free of contaminants that regular salt may contain.

One consideration when switching over to Pink Himalayan Salt from table salt is how coarse the salt crystals are.  While you can get Himalayan Salt in several different crystal sizes, most are significantly larger than regular salt crystal sizes.  This means that you may need to add more Himalayan Salt to your food than what you would normally add in table salt, as the larger crystals don’t pack into the same volume measuring spoon as the smaller crystals in table salt do.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Salt is bad.  We’ve been taught that all our lives.  Next week, we’ll dissolve some of the salt myths and maybe change how you look at this important nutrient.

--Geoff

 

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pink-himalayan-salt#section2

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sea-salt/faq-20058512

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sodium

https://www.webmd.boots.com/a-to-z-guides/hyponatraemia

 

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