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Fit Trendwatch: Is Fancy Salt Any Better For You Than Plain Salt?

Posted Jul 26 2012 12:48am

Today’s post is not about bath salts. Definitely do not eat those!!

“Tastegasm.” I have used that word twice today. And yes I want to smack the Jersey Shore right out of me too. So what could beguile me enough to use a word that if I read it in a SAT essay I would throw my imaginary red pen at my computer screen? (My other part time job is grading the literary stylings of high schoolers attempting to convince someone they should be let into college. It is the most. boring. job. ever. And I do not use extraneous punctuation lightly. I dare you to trump me.)

Well the first food totally has no place on any kind of a health blog – it’s the worst of the worst processed foods – and yet zohmygoodness it is amazeballs!!1! (Do you see what this has done to me? I’m practically illiterate now. I’ll have to sit outside Fitbloggin’ with my empty Oreo box and beg for Larabars to feed my children. Which actually sounds like kind of a riot. ANYHOW.) Behold the Golden Fudge Creme Birthday Cake Oreo:

Curse those food scientists and their amazing ball of preservatives dunked in fudge and imbued with the heady aroma of Funfetti. Don’t buy these. Seriously, just don’t.

So let’s talk instead about the second food I’ve been making my tastegasm face over! In my effort to buy, as Abby says ( go read this post now!  It made me cry!), ALL the things at Target, I found some fancy pants salt on clearance. I’ve heard so many amazing things about “real” salt lately that I threw all three packages in my cart. Nothing says “healthy” like a triple-decker clearance sticker, right?

When I got home from doing Turbo Jennie’s birthday turbokick workout tonight, the first thing I did was head straight for the salt. (Lie. First thing I really did was head straight for my camera on auto-timer so I could take a headless picture of myself wearing my latest acquisition: my very own jangly hip scarf thingy!! It was Jennie’s birthday but somehow I got a present too – thank you Megan P! But seriously, how cool is this thing?

I will be wearing it for every occasion here on out. PTA meeting? I got the “enrichment” activity. Grocery store? I’ll bring the muzak. Cub scouts? I’ll bring another box of Birthday Cake Oreos.) But AFTER that, I went straight for the salt. It was a super sweaty workout and my body wanted electrolyte equilibrium, stat.

So I sliced open an avocado and did what every (uncultured) red-blooded American does: sprinkled salt on it. (And yes I do it to tomatoes and cucumbers too.) This time, however, instead of using my girl-with-umbrella-mindlessly-pouring-salt-into-the-rain brand of salt I used “alderwood smoked black sea salt.” My first thought: “This looks like caviar! But should salt be black and pearlescent?” There wasn’t time for a second thought because for the love of little green apples everywhere that was the yummiest salt I’ve ever had. I ate the entire avocado (mmmm… it’s so liberating not to be afraid of fat anymore !) but all I could focus on was getting that perfect amount of crumbly black salt on each bite. And then I licked the stuff that spilled on the table.

Verdict: fancy pants salt definitely tastes better than plain table salt!

But does it mean that this salt is healthier than plain salt? Or that salt is even a health food at all?

First, don’t be afraid of salt . It’s gotten a bad rap when it comes to heart disease. While no one is telling you to go nuts and salt every food within an inch of its life, a little salt used judiciously is actually better for you than trying to avoid salt altogether. (It’s a nuanced debate. Read Mark Sisson’s excellent discourse on the subjec t.)

Reports Scientific American :

“A meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in theAmerican Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease.”

I know, it’s scary. I too used to avoid all salt because I thought it was a healthy choice. But then I supressed my own thyroid by overexercising and one of the things my doctor advised me to do was… eat more salt. (Of course, she had me using the iodized variety as it is the iodine that helped boost my thryoid.)

Second, there are many scientifically supported benefits of eating sea salt:

1. It helps maintain your electrolyte balance which is critical for brain function.

2. Sea salt, depending on where it is from and how it is processed, has micronutrients and minerals that have been shown to have antibiotic, immune-boosting, and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Sea salt contains potassium as well as sodium, which is important because scientists think that many of the purported health issues from salt are not actually from OD’ing on the stuff but from a deficiency of potassium. The two work together in our cells. Table salt is just sodium and chloride.

4. According to some sources, sea salt works as a digestive aid similar to a prebiotic.

Now the other side.

1. The Mayo Clinic says “Sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often marketed as a more natural and healthy alternative. ”

2. Sea salt does not contain added iodine like table salt and table salt is one of the main ways people get their needed iodine. (Although it can be found naturally in food, most notably in seafood and seaweed.)

3. Sea salt is a lot (a lot alot) more expensive than regular salt.

To eat or not to eat? I think it’s safe to say that you don’t need sea salt but that it’s one of those things that’s nice to have sometimes. Generally I’m a pretty practical person (unless we’re talking shoes and vintage dresses) so the price wouldn’t be worth it for me to use fancy salt in all of my cooking. But I will say that it tastes amazing and who knew salt could taste anything but, well, salty? So I’ll likely keep some on hand for future post-workout recovery avocados!

What’s your take on salt? Do you avoid it or embrace it? Have you tried any types of sea salt? (PS. I also got pink Himalayan and “pure ocean” salt.) Do you eat salt on any weird foods? (My husband loves to salt and pepper his cantaloupe…)


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