The Real Salt of the Earth Aug 10, 2007

Its value is as old as the earth itself. Its history touches every culture.
In ancient Greece, slaves were traded for salt - hence the expression "not worth his salt." Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. Some nations went to war over salt.
In Biblical times, salt was also used to seal an agreement or contract and was called "the covenant of salt". Men wore a pouch of salt tied to their belt and when they made a promise to someone each put a pinch of salt into the other’s pouch.

Salt was valuable since it preserved foods and being called the "salt of the earth" meant that you were a valuable person. Jesus told his disciples "Ye are the salt of the earth, ...Ye are the light of the world." Meaning they were preservatives against the damaging and spoiling effects of worldly sin.

The Druids used salt in their Stonehenge rituals because it was believed to represent a symbol of the life-giving fruits of the earth. In old Japanese theatres, salt was sprinkled on the stage before each performance to prevent evil spirits from casting a spell on the actors and ruining the play; a tradition that is still continued in sumo wrestling.

It is believed there are more than 14,000 uses of salt. Before the advent of modern chemicals and cleaners it was used for simple things around the house.

But beyond economics, cleanliness and culture, salt, or more correctly sodium chloride, has a more core importance. It is an essential element in the diet of not only humans but of animals, and many plants.

Salt is not only crucial to life but it is necessary for good health. Salt is critical to your body’s functioning. It helps transmit nerve impulses, makes your muscles work and maintains the proper balance of body fluids.

Human blood contains 0.9% salt-sodium chloride, the same saline solution used medically to cleanse wounds. Salt maintains the electrolyte balance inside and outside the cells and it helps carry nutrients into cells, and the list could go on much further.

However, all salt is not the same. As far as the body is concerned there is no connection between the table salt you buy and the mineral rich Celtic sea salt available at health food stores. One can kill you; the other heals you.

What remains after typical salt is "chemically cleaned" is 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemicals additives. Dried at over 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, the excessive heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt, stripping important minerals such as magnesium, causing the potential for a myriad of health problems in your body.In addition, your table salt very often contains dangerous preservatives that are not required to be listed on the packaging. Common anti-caking agents such as ferrocyanide, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, and aluminum hydroxide are added to improve the ability of table salt to pour. These agents work by preventing the salt from mixing with moisture, both inside the box and inside the human body. This prevents the salt from doing one of its important functions in the organism: regulating hydration.

For every gram of sodium chloride that your body cannot get rid of, your body uses twenty-three times the amount of water to neutralize the salt. When the water is not easily accessible, it must resort to stealing water stored in its own cells. This results in dehydrated cells that do not function as they should and can prematurely kill them. Natural Celtic sea salt, on the other hand, is 84% sodium chloride and 16% other minerals, a little lower in sodium and no added chemicals. It is the salt the body recognizes and is designed to use. Unrefined sea salt supplies all 92 vital trace minerals; including magnesium, calcium, silicon, phosphorus, iodine. When shopping for sea salt, it needs to be labled “unrefined” and should have a slight grey colour.

Natural salts easily replace table salt in all recipes and actually have a stronger salty taste so a little goes a long way and you should find yourself using less.

In Canada, there is currently no recommended daily intake for sodium. However, Canada's Guidelines for Healthy Eating encourage Canadians to limit their salt intake.

With the vast majority of salt- about 77%- coming from processed food and food outside the home most North Americans today consume 15-24 milligrams of salt daily. That is about 15 times more that the approximate one-teaspoon per day recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

Al-be-it, salt is absolutely necessary for optimum health; it is one of those occasions where a little is plenty.

The little being natural unrefined salt, the salt your body likes. The plenty being the benefits this one simple change in your eating strategy will bring you.

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