Natural salt no better than table salt

A researcher says natural salts are not healthier than normal table salt as they all contain sodium chloride.

As food and cooking are popularised through TV cooking shows and celebrity chefs, consumers are increasingly seeking better alternatives to mass produced commercial products. Not least of these being the seasoning we add to our food.
Salt has been part of good cooking for aeons and has played a prominent role in civilisations throughout history. According to Wikipedia, salt was of high value to the Hebrews, Greeks, Chinese, Hittites and other peoples of antiquity.
It states that in the early years of the Roman Republic, roads were built to make transportation of salt to Rome easier. Biblical references include that salt be added to all burnt animal sacrifices, and the well-known saying “salt of the earth” is a metaphor used by Jesus.
In modern times salt has become a bit of a black sheep in culinary terms, with research pointing to links between salt and heart disease. More recently, a new salt fad has emerged, with popular TV chefs suggesting that “natural” or unprocessed salt provides a healthier alternative.
Not so, says Professor Alta Schutte, who holds an SA Research Chair in early detection and prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in South Africa.
She explains international consensus holds that too much salt results in increased blood pressure and heart disease over time, with sufficient evidence supporting this. This is due to high levels of sodium chloride.
She says “natural” salts are not healthier than the widely available table salt we all know. “All these ‘natural’ salts contain the essential component, namely sodium chloride, which gives salt its salty taste. So these claims (that natural salts are healthier) are completely incorrect.”
Schutte says, however, too little salt is also not necessarily good for a person, particularly if you do not get enough potassium in your diet.
She is part of PURE, a multi-national Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study. “Some groups (including the PURE group) are challenging that too little salt may also cause adverse health effects, suggesting too much or too little are both bad.”
Schutte says potassium balances salt intake, and many scientists look at the sodium-to-potassium ratio of an individual to estimate health. “Potassium is very beneficial to lower blood pressure, and in my opinion much more attention should be given to increase the population’s potassium intake by means of vegetable and fruit intake.”
She says natural salt such as pure sea salt or Himalayan salt crystals for example, are not considered a healthier alternative. “The only alternative is potassium salts, which are expensive but taste like salt although they do not include sodium chloride.”
On the whole, though, Schutte agrees that most South Africans eat far too much salt, with an estimated daily average of 7-10 grams a day. “The World Health Organisation advises not taking more than one teaspoon of salt per day, that is 5 grams of salt per day.”
This includes the salt already in your processed foods, as well as additional salt that you add whilst cooking or at the table.
“Bread contains high quantities of salt, as well as soup powders, stock powder, cereals, biltong, and boerewors.”
Schutte advocates limiting the amount of salt used when cooking and also eating a lot more fruit and vegetables to up potassium intake. “Bananas, for example, are a great source of potassium.”
For further information about healthy salt choices visit – Sabrina Dean