Well seasoned: How salt can actually be good for you

Health campaigners reckon that it's a recipe for high blood pressure – but some mineral-rich varieties can actually benefit our health.

When it comes to matters of health, salt has got bad press. It's that cheap condiment and hidden food flavouring with the hidden health risks. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it can strain your heart and blood pressure, bringing that fateful day a little closer. Studies indicate it might also increase your risk of brittle bones and other ailments.

But some experts argue that salt could be just what we need for healing, health and longevity.

Modern salt, they agree, is unhealthy. But common table salt has almost nothing in common with traditional salt, say the salt connoisseurs. Just look at the rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt, or the grey texture of Celtic salt – both pride themselves on traditional harvesting, avoiding heat treatment or refining methods – and you know you're getting something special, not least that when you taste them, they actually have flavour.

And unlike the sodium chloride you find on most kitchen tables, unrefined rock salt contains more than 84 different minerals.

"These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated," argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. "We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid."

Historically, these mineral salts were the commodities that trade routes and cities such as Saltzberg grew up around. Once known as "white gold", salt was, and still is, essential for virtually all biological processes. Without mineral salts, says Dr Hendel, there would be no movement, memory or thought and your heart wouldn't beat.

"In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions," explains Dr Hendel. "These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They're also needed to balance PH levels in the body."

Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases.

Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It's a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US.

Source - Independent

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