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Know your salt

blood pressure, nutrition | June 10, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Blood pressure

Know your salt

Once upon a time table salt was our only choice when it came to salt our food; however these days salt comes in different varieties, colours, and sizes. What is the difference?

What is Salt?

Salt is a chemical compound made up of two elements, sodium and chloride (NaCl). In ancient times it was used in sacrificial offerings, and Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Prior to refrigeration, salt was used for food preservation and became a symbol for purity and integrity (“salt of the earth”). In Britain it is uses on the roads during particularly icy weather.

Salt and your health

salt heart healthSalt is the main source of the mineral sodium in the diet. Sodium is vital in small amounts for proper nerve conduction and muscle contraction, and for maintaining of fluid and electrolyte balance.

Most Australians consume more sodium than recommended.

High sodium consumption has been associated with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Furthermore, a meta-analysis (a statistical approach used to combine results from previous research studies) of 13 studies with over 170,000 participants has shown that higher salt intake was associated with greater risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

How much salt?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends adults eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (equivalent to about 1 teaspoon or 6 g of salt).

According to the American Institute of Medicine (IOM), there is no evidence to support reducing sodium intake below the recommended 2300 mg per day, and lowering further may even lead to greater health risks in patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or pre existing cardiovascular disease.

When looking at food labels, look at the Nutrition Information Panel for the total sodium content of packaged foods, as well as the ingredients list for any salt and sodium-containing additive.

Sources of salt in our diet

Packaged and processed foods. About 75% of salt in the typical Western diet comes from processed foods, where sodium has been added as a preservative or as a flavour enhancer. These include processed meats such as ham, crackers, bread, pizza, cheese, canned soups, soy sauce, tomato sauce, salad dressings, crisps, canned foods, cereals, etc. 

salt baconNatural sources. Approximately 10% of sodium in the diet occurs naturally in very small quantities in some foods including all vegetables and dairy products, meat, and shellfish.

Added salt at home. Many people add salt to their food in cooking or at the table, usually out of habit.


Types of salt

Table salt. The most commonly used salt, contains 97% sodium chloride or more, with added anti caking agents (554), which is an additive that helps prevent food particles from sticking together.Table salt is said to be highly refined, harvested mechanically and devoid of other minerals.

Iodised salt. Table salt with added iodine in the form of potassium iodide.

In order to address mild iodine deficiency, a mandatory iodine fortification of salt was implemented in Australia in 2009 in bread. Iodised salt must be listed in the ingredient list of food labels. Not all table salt has iodine.

himalayan salt​Pink Himalayan salt. A type of rock salt mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan, near the foothills of the Himalayas. Its proponents claim that it contains 84 trace minerals that give it the pink colour and also promote health and well-being. 

Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest that pink Himalayan sea salt is healthier than regular table salt, it is unrefined and unprocessed, containing much more than just sodium and chloride and no additives.

Celtic salt. Unrefined greyish-colour sea salt harvested near the coast of north-western France. It contains lower sodium levels than both table salt and Himalayan salt, and a wide array of minerals. Sea salts are derived through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes, a process that leaves behind trace minerals.

Kosher salt. Often used in recipes due to its large flake size and ability to dissolve quicker, kosher salt got its name from its original purpose to make meat kosher in the Jewish religion, meaning to remove the blood from meat. Kosher salt is not necessarily kosher-certified. It is similar in its sodium and chloride content to table salt, and usually contains less, if any, anti caking agents or iodine.

Epsom salt. A natural source of magnesium sulphate, usually used for bath soaks for muscle aches. There are different “grades” of epsom salt for different applications. Food grade epsom salt can be taken internally for a significant laxative effect.

The bottom line

Salt is essential for our health, but most of us consume it in excess. Common table salt is heavily processed, contains the highest amount of sodium, and usually some additives. Both Himalayan and Celtic salts contain additional minerals in different composition, although in negligible amounts; however, they are not chemically processed and contain no additives or anti caking agents.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Food Standards Australia New Zealand2016, Iodine fortification, FSANZ, retrieved June 7, 2017,

Heart Foundation 2017, Salt, The Heart Foundation, retrieved June 8, 2017,

Institute of Food Research 2009, The Salt Debate, IFR, retrieved June 8, 2017

Institute of Medicine. 2013. Sodium Intake in Populations: Assessment of Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:

Mayo Clinic 2016, Sodium: How to tame your salt habit, Mayo Clinic, retrieved June 5, 2017,

National Health and Medical Research Council 2014, Sodium, NHMRC, retrieved June 7, 2017,

Strazzullo, P., D’Elia, L., Kandala, N.-B., & Cappuccio, F. P. (2009). Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ, 339.

Wood, F, Hills, J.M, Ralston, R.H., 2017, salt (NaCl), Encyclopaedia Britannica, retrieved June 5, 2017, f

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