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Home/Blog/Salt: Best Types, Benefits and How Much Sodium Is Needed

Salt: Best Types, Benefits and How Much Sodium Is Needed

By Rachel Link, RD, MS

March 9, 2024

Salt and sodium benefits

Salt. Humans have used this flavoring agent for thousands of years, and our palate expects a bit of saltiness in practically everything we eat. That being said, salt has largely been demonized and excessive salt intake among Americans is relatively common. Some health experts even recommend that it be out of the diet in order to better support heart health.

So, salt good or salt bad? The story, of course, is never so simple. Not all salt is created equal, as there is definitely a difference between unrefined, mineral-rich varieties like sea salt versus table salt that has been heavily processed and stripped of all of its natural nutrients.

Learn about the different kinds of salt, how much you need, and then the genuine benefits of salt in proper amounts. In some ways, salt is the new fat, a nutrient that was widely panned and had experts encouraging people to reduce their intake as much as possible. Well, it turns out that some quantity, especially of quality types, is very much needed for us to thrive.

Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including what kinds and amounts of salt in your diet.

What Is Salt?

Sodium is commonly referred to as “salt.” Many studies show that it’s widely present in the American diet, most often in the form of sodium chloride, which is added to a variety of packaged, canned, bottled and frozen foods and beverages.

Salt has always been essential to human life since humans need sodium in order to survive. According to Ayurveda, salt should be unrefined and consumed in moderation to get the most health benefits.

Even though many people get too much of it, sodium is an important electrolyte mineral that is involved in muscle contraction and the regulation of already healthy, normal blood pressure, blood volume and nerve function.

All types of salt — including table salt — originate from a sea or a salty body of water, but not all salts currently on the market actually come from the oceans. Salts that are not sea salt are often derived from underground salt deposits left behind by seawater at some point.

In contrast, sea salt is a type of salt produced from the evaporation of current seawater. The evaporation is accomplished by either open-air solar evaporation or by a quicker vacuum evaporation process.

When you eat a sea salt that has experienced very little processing, you have a salt that contains health-promoting trace minerals. It also has natural flavors and colors that make it tastier.

Sea salt can be either unrefined or refined, although unrefined sea salt is generally recommended to maximize its potential health benefits. Refined sea salt, on the other hand, is washed to strip it of its trace minerals and often contains harmful food additives.

How Much Sodium Per Day Is Needed?

Sodium recommendations can differ based on a variety of factors. Competitive athletes, for example, should be mindful of their sodium intake and be sure to replenish any electrolytes that are lost through sweat when working out.

According to the FDA, more than 70 percent of total sodium intake among Americans is from sodium added during food manufacturing and commercial food preparation. Only 30 percent or less of salt intake is from added table salt or small amounts of salt naturally found in some whole foods (like meat and dairy).

For example, ultra-processed foods that are high in sodium are often multiple-ingredient foods that have been packaged for direct sale to consumers or use in food establishments like restaurants. Sodium is added to packaged and processed foods not only because it enhances the taste, but because it plays a role in food safety and preservation.

Overall, consuming too much salt/sodium is a much more common problem than not consuming enough. Average sodium intake in the U.S. is estimated to be approximately 3,400 milligrams per day. This is considerably more than the amount recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most authorities advise people 14 years and older to limit their consumption to 2,300 mg/day.

In the U.S, “normal sodium levels” that can be supportive of general health, including heart health and normal blood pressure levels, are between 1,500 and 2,300 mg/day. Of course, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen.

Types of Salt

Table salt is mainly mined from underground salt deposits. It’s heavily processed to eliminate healthy minerals and manufactured by taking natural salt (such as crude oil flake leftovers) and heating it to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. During this extreme process, the chemical composition is completely altered, destroying many of its potential health-promoting properties.

Meanwhile, there are many different types of sea salt available, each of which varies based on where it originates. Here are a few of the most common types of sea salt on the market today:

Himalayan Sea Salt

Many believe Himalayan sea salt is the purest salt available. It’s believed to be composed of dried remnants of the original, primal sea.

Known as “pink gold” or “pink sea salt,” Himalayan crystal salt is actually a beautiful translucent pink and contains all of the elements found in your body.

Celtic Sea Salt®

Another ancient commodity, Celtic Sea Salt® is comparable to Himalayan crystal salt in its composition and health benefits. With a grayish hue, it is naturally harvested in Brittany, France, near the Celtic Sea, using a 2,000-year-old Celtic method that is crucial to preserving its life-giving nutrition profile.

Fleur de Sel or Flor de Sal

French or Portuguese for “flower of salt,” this sea salt gets its name from the patterns of crystals that resemble flowers. This is a salt that forms as a thin, fragile crust on seawater’s surface as it evaporates. Traditionally, it was used as a salve and laxative, but today it’s most commonly used for cooking as a finishing salt.

Flaky Sea Salt

This variety of sea salt can be formed naturally or produced by a variety of methods. Often sold under the brand Maldon® sea salt flakes, flaky sea salts have thin, flattened crystals that provide more surface area with less mass, resulting in a quick-dissolving and crunchy salt. It’s said that flake sea salt has a saltier taste but may also contain a lower amount of trace minerals than other sea salts.

Spanish Red Cave Salt

Harvested in the salt valley of Anana in the Basque Country, this Spanish sea salt is a highly regarded natural salt that is used in restaurants across Spain and France. It’s also a featured ingredient in Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Advanced Hydrate.

Hawaiian Sea Salt

Hawaiian or Alaea sea salt is a traditional Hawaiian salt. Alae is a natural red volcanic clay that is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide, and it also gives this sea salt its distinctive red sea salt color but can also be found in white or black sea salt varieties. Real Hawaiian salt is pricey and hard to find outside of Hawaii.

Health Benefits of Sea Salt

Ancient Ayurvedic texts consider sea salt essential to the function and growth of the body. In the Traditional Chinese Method, sea salt is used to cool the body and regulate levels of water and moisture. It’s also said to support kidney health, flush out toxins and promote proper digestion in the body.

Here are some of the most well-known benefits:

1. Rich in Trace Minerals

High-quality sea salts typically contain upward of 60 trace minerals, and for specific types like Himalayan sea salt, that number is said to be closer to 84. Either way, sea salts are a great source of micronutrients.

It’s become harder and harder to obtain trace minerals from the foods we eat due to the lack of nutrient-rich soil. However, trace minerals are still abundant in our planet’s seas and oceans, from which we get a variety of sea salts.

2. Supports Healthy Hydration Levels and Balances Fluids

Water follows salt, which means if you increase your sodium intake too much, water retention also occurs. At the same time, the opposite is also true: A loss in sodium results in a loss in water, potentially impacting hydration and prompting thirst.

By consuming sea salt in moderation each day, you can help ensure that you maintain sufficient sodium levels, which helps balance your sodium-potassium ratios. Sodium and potassium are two electrolytes — often featured in electrolyte drinks — that work together to ensure that there is proper fluid balance in your body’s cells as well as your blood plasma and extracellular fluid.

3. Loaded with Electrolytes

The minimal processing of unrefined sea salt enables it to retain much of its natural mineral content. Sea salt contains many of the major electrolytes, like sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, that are absolutely essential to good health.

Electrolytes have so many important functions — from regulating your heartbeat to allowing your muscles to contract so you can move. Sea salt in moderation can help in promoting healthy electrolyte balance, which can support overall health.

4. Promotes Brain, Muscle and Nervous System Function

As a good source of sodium, sea salt is essential for proper brain, muscle and nervous system function. Not only does sodium play a role in regulating your body’s fluid balance, but it’s also required for the transmission of electrical signals in the body.

5. Supports Digestive Health

Not getting enough salt in your diet can also negatively impact your digestive health. In fact, a lack of salt in the diet can impact hydrochloric acid (HCL) production in your stomach.

Consuming the right amount of sea salt can help your body produce proper amounts of HCL since sea salt provides chloride, one of the building blocks of stomach acid.

6. Promotes Nutrient Absorption

Having enough stomach acid also helps our bodies absorb vitamins and minerals, like calcium, zinc, iron, folate and vitamin B12. For this reason, consuming high-quality sea salt regularly can help your body absorb more nutrients from the foods that you eat.

Other benefits of sea salt include:

  • Promote healthy pH balance in your cells

  • Promote normal blood sugar levels already in the normal range

  • Support respiratory health

  • Help promote healthy muscle function

  • Regulate your sleep

  • Support your libido

  • Promote vascular health

  • Support normal blood pressure levels

  • Help alkalize the body

Hydration Supplement Featuring a Sea Salt

Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Advanced Hydrate Powder (lemon lime or mixed berry flavor) supplement helps you achieve rapid hydration for your skin and body. It features a hydration superfood blend that includes Spanish red cave salt and red marine algae.

Features of this hydration supplement include the following:

  • 2x electrolytes* vs. leading sports drinks

  • Provides skin and body hydration

  • Hydrates rapidly — faster than water alone

  • Provides rapid absorption of water and key nutrients

  • Provides a real food source of balanced electrolytes

**2x or 3x more per serving, based on overall sodium and potassium levels. Plus, this formula includes magnesium and calcium.

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