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Wodraska: Don't be so quick to banish the salt

Published July 24, 2013 4:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt has gotten such a bad rap that you might feel a little hesitant reaching for the salt shaker in public.

Salt shakers might have become a thing of the past in New York if lawmakers had been successful in 2010 in passing a ban on the use of salt to prepare meals in restaurants.

Well, good news. I'm here to tell you that salt isn't bad, particularly for those who are active in the summer in hot climates such as Utah. It's not bad as long as you are ingesting the right kind of salt.

Typical, refined table salt has been processed to the point that it is about 97 percent sodium chloride with many of the valuable minerals stripped away.

This is the culprit that has given salt such a bad name because it is found in high amounts in processed foods, condiments, etc.

It's popular in these foods because it often includes anti-caking agents. So not only are you not getting vital trace minerals when you use refined salt, but you are getting chemical additives. The best and healthiest way to avoid this kind of salt isn't to eat fast food or highly processed food without salt, but to avoid that kind of food altogether.

The kind of salt you should have on your table and enjoying on a regular basis is unrefined sea salt.

This salt comes in a variety of colors due to the large amounts of trace minerals the salt contains such as calcium, magnesium and iodine. These trace minerals are what make sea salt so important for active people. As you sweat, these trace minerals or electrolytes are lost through sweat, leading to diminished performance, cramping and other issues if they aren't replaced.

Popular energy drinks are marketed as electrolyte replacements to help people replace these vital minerals to maintain the necessary balance for optimal performance.

However, the downside of these drinks is they come with a lot more sugar than the average person who is working out needs to replenish. Most would be better off adding a pinch of sea salt to water or adding sea salt to food.

For those gasping, saying they've heard how we need to cut back on salt, a recent analysis showed this isn't necessarily the case. The CDC recently reviewed studies that looked at the health benefits of reducing salt and concluded reducing it doesn't have the health benefits once thought and consuming less than one teaspoon a day could do more damage to your health.

The study found consuming 1.5 to 3 teaspoons a day won't have adverse affects on the average person's health. The study also didn't differentiate between healthy sea salt and regular, iodized table salt.

The healthiest action most could take is adding good quality sea salt back into the diet. As with everything, stick to a moderate amount, unless your doctor has advised against doing so for a specific reason, and you'll probably be much healthier for it. —