Salt. It gets a bad rep.
It gets blamed for unpleasant things like causing high blood pressure and dreaded water retention.
But did you know that our blood is comprised of 0.9% salt solution? It is necessary for many vital roles that keep us healthy.
That’s right – salt doesn’t just keep us alive, it allows us to thrive!
Now, before I continue, I must clarify that not all salt is the same – far from it. If you use regular table salt, I want you to toss it in the garbage directly after reading this article (okay, you can do it now, but you must promise to come back) 😉
Table salt is a chemical compound made in a lab that consists of equal parts sodium and chlorine – that’s it. This is the stuff that gives ‘sea salt’ a bad rep. What you want to source is an unrefined, unprocessed, high quality sea salt that’s abundant in trace minerals. This type of salt is recognized by the body and effectively utilized. Here at Northshore Naturopathic Clinic, we promote Nature’s Cargo Sea Salt. Dr. Matsen has done his research and approved this hand-harvested, natural product.
We all know the word “salary”, but did you know that it was derived from the word “salt”? So valued in the past, salt was used as a source of currency and a means of trade. Early Romans also understood the benefits to their health and began salting their leafy greens and vegetables before eating. From the word itself, they called this a “salad”!
This brings us to a very interesting and important question: why were the Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables? Surely something so prized it was used as currency was not being added to food simply as a flavor enhancer. No; they realized that by including salt on their plant foods, they felt better hydrated, more energized, repaired better after physical training and a host of other things. That’s because salt is required for:
- Balancing fluid inside and outside cells (hydration)
- Nerve functioning
- Muscle contraction
- Calcium absorption
All of these are greatly important, but let’s discuss the latter in more detail. Calcium is a critical component of every bone, muscle and tissue in our bodies – how does salt impact our ability to absorb it?
The answer cannot be discussed without mentioning the link to vitamin D. This vitamin is required for the absorption of calcium. The responsibility of Vitamin D activation is the role of the kidneys. Your kidneys are in the dark and can only monitor what is going on outside by the foods that we eat. If you eat a lot of potassium rich foods – oranges, bananas, pineapples, kiwis, mangoes, etc – you are telling your kidneys that you live in a hot sunny climate. Our body is smart; if we are eating these foods it thinks “Hey, if I’m eating mangoes, I must be in the tropics picking it straight from the tree!” Meaning that your body thinks it’s getting vitamin D from the sun on your skin and in turn has no reason to activate your vitamin D or furthermore absorb your calcium.
The luxury of modern day transportation and having access to global foods at any time is extremely new – it’s only been 30 years out of the past 200,000! The sudden influx of imported foods is confusing our internal signaling systems with an impact on our physiology.
What does this mean for us Vancouverites spending much of the year under cloud-cover? And what are the implications of this for vegetarians and vegans?
If you’re not getting vitamin D from the sun then you need to avoid eating high potassium foods (especially those imported tropical fruits) so that you can properly absorb your calcium. If you can’t absorb your calcium you are at risk of impairing your bone density, digestion, muscle strength, and more.
Beyond eating a seasonally based diet, we need something else: salt!
All plant based foods are potassium containing. Therefore, to keep the nutrient balance you must slightly sea salt all vegetables, grains, beans, lentils, and greens. People who eat animal protein acquire some salt naturally from meats and fish – these foods do not need additional salt and help to balance the high potassium fruits.
In addition to seasonal eating, vegetarians and vegans who do not acquire animal proteins need to slightly salt ALL of their foods – yes, even your fruits – to ensure proper nutrient balancing and support muscle, tissue and bone health!
We see clients at the office everyday who have digestive disturbances as a result of this. Now you know how to prevent yourself from being next on the list.
You don’t necessarily need to be in Rome to “do as the Romans do” – so make sure you salt that salad!
Yours in health and happiness,
Jessica Budgell, Holistic Nutritionist