Salt has been used as the oldest form of seasoning for centuries. However, did you know that salt has also been used medicinally for thousands of years? Yes, it is a key ingredient in several classical Ayurvedic formulas, to promote digestion or clear congestion.
Despite its many benefits, salt, in today’s modern medical system has been questioned and demonized. From a holistic perspective, salt itself is not the problem. It is the type of salt, how processed it is. When used in right amounts and the right form, it is known to have tremendous benefits.
The different types of salt
What our ancestors knew as salt is quite different from what is most commonly available in today’s grocery store aisle. A naturally mined element taken from the seas or ancient sea beds, today salt is now most often a highly processed commodity more fitting for industrial use than in cooking. Despite the commonality and popularity of table salt, there are still plenty of forms of natural salt that you can find.
Here are the three main types of salt found today:
Table salt is the most highly processed food. It has been refined to contain greater amounts of sodium than natural forms of salt (it is 99.85% sodium chloride). In addition to chemicals used in the refining process, table salt also contains additives. These may include anti-caking agents, aluminum, fluoride and iodine, as well as other chemicals that stabilize these additions. While these additives are not listed on the packaging, their presence creates what we call “Ama” or toxins (in Ayurveda), in our body. Due to its high sodium content, table salt tastes the strongest and is the most heating of all the types of salt.
Sea salt in its purest form is made by simply drying sea water in the sun. This method, which has been used for centuries all around the world, leaves behind small crystals of various shapes and sizes. With a briny taste, sea salt is a good option for daily use. If you buy sea salt, choose a variety that is naturally harvested.
Mineral salt, also called rock salt, is harvested from ancient sea beds that have dried over thousands of years. It is mined from mountains (one of the most popular varieties is pink Himalayan salt), then washed and dried in a natural process. One of the great benefits of mineral salt is that it contains trace minerals. Historically these trace minerals came from food grown in rich soil, but today’s commercially-grown food comes from overworked soil that isn’t rich in these chemicals anymore. For this reason, mineral salt is our preference for cooking. Mineral salt is also our preference for the Ayurvedic practice of neti too, as it clears excess mucus and supports respiratory health.
Cooking with salt is key to unlocking its flavor-enhancing abilities, but beware that there is a HUGE difference between salting a dish while you cook it VS salting your food at the table after it’s being cooked, since it can be heating for the body and cause a pitta imbalance.
We hope this article has busted some common myths about salt, its uses and health implications.
As always if you’d like to revisit your salt intake, get in touch with our Ayurvedic practitioners for a personalized consultation.
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