Is there a difference?
You’d be forgiven for assuming that table salt contains just salt.
However, if you check the ingredients, you might be surprised to find additives you don’t even recognise as food ingredients.
The truth is, table salt is a heavily refined and processed product. Here’s a quick run-down of what that looks like.
When salt is chemically cleaned and processed, the trace minerals and electrolytes that naturally occur in unrefined salt are removed as ‘impurities’.
The salt is then heated to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (648 degrees Celcius) to remove all traces of moisture leaving a fine, granulated salt that is almost 99.5% pure sodium chloride. During this extreme process, the chemical composition is completely altered. This processed salt now requires ‘improvement’.
Anti-caking agent: Salt naturally absorbs moisture which makes it clump together. To prevent this, table salt has anti-caking agents added to it such as sodium ferrocyanide (aka yellow prussiate of soda), calcium silicate and sodium aluminosilicate, among others. It doesn’t stop there. As Mark Bitterman points out in his excellent book Salted (pages 190-191), the anti-caking agents need anti-caking compounds of their own, so further humectants are added. All this so salt flows freely out of the shaker!
Iodine: many salts are iodised, by having iodine added in the form of potassium iodide, sodium iodide, or sodium iodate. Our bodies need iodine for our thyroid to function optimally. As we have to get iodine from our food, iodides have been added to salt to prevent goitre in countries where the agricultural soil is deficient in iodine. However, iodide isn’t stable on its own. Enter:
Dextrose: this is a form of glucose, the sugar in corn syrup, added to stabilise the iodide so that it doesn’t evaporate away. Sugar in your salt?
Fluoride: (mainly in South America, Switzerland and Germany) in the form of potassium fluoride, sodium fluoride, sodium fluosilicate is added to prevent dental caries.
Well, those all sound like really positive additives that make salt easier to use and are even good for our health, right? Firstly, we’re advocates for you being in charge of what dietary supplements you choose to take and how.
Secondly, there are indications that all those additives - many of them artificially manufactured - can have an accumulative detrimental impact on our health. For instance, iodised salt increases the risk of consuming excess amounts of iodine, causing thyroid dysfunction for certain people who may be more sensitive to its effects.
While you may think that these additives are in such small quantities, it’s hardly significant. Consider how many food items you consume in a week that have table salt added to them – from tinned products, crisps, cured meats, cheese to your daily bread - and you’ll see how quickly it all adds up.
Dr David Brownstein, MD, one of the foremost practitioners of holistic medicine, says since the stuff we call table salt has been stripped of all the naturally occurring minerals through the industrial refining process, it isn’t actually a complete salt.
Our bodies don’t know how to process such a highly refined, denatured salt, putting a burden on our kidneys as they try to eliminate a substance they don’t recognise.
Finally, salt is all about the taste. It’s the ratio of different trace minerals that give salt its unique, umami flavour. Of table salt, Mark Bitterman has this to say:
‘Iodised salt is a processed chemical. And it tastes like it: harsh and bitter, with such perfect homogeneity that your tongue actually recoils from the encounter. Parching your flesh, the flavours evolve from bad to worse, gaining an intense acridness.’
As we know, we cannot survive without salt, we need it. In his book Salt Your Way To Health, Dr Brownstein says it is the nourishing, unrefined natural salt with all its trace minerals, that should be a vital ingredient in everyone’s diet.
It makes sense to eat the healthiest salt we can find. How will you distinguish a natural salt from table salt?
It’s simple. The ingredient list will have just one word: salt.
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is Table Salt?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-table-salt-604008.
Mark Bitterman, Salted, A Manifesto on the World’s most essential mineral
Dr Brownstein, MD, Salt Your Way To Health
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