The amount of proteins, fats and vitamins in cells can vary quite a lot, but the situation is not the same when it comes to mineral salts or ions of different elements. Molecules of salts consist of positive and negative ions. Usually, those are ions of metals and inorganic acids. Salt crystals split into ions when dissolved in water and other liquids. Furthermore, the content of ions in cells is maintained very precisely and even the slightest deviations here can be dangerous for life. The proportional content of different elements is exactly the same as in sea water (except for magnesium). Thus, the first organelles and cells of the human body really evolved from marine protozoa and this fact cannot be denied.
There are six important elements in products: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
Sodium has probably caused more debates between dieticians than all the other mineral substances, as it is contained in normal table salt (NaCl).
Sodium is undoubtedly essential for vital activity. Moreover, nature has created special mechanisms always keeping this element close to a minimum level.
Another question is: how much sodium do we really need? The answer is simple: the amount of sodium consumed with natural food is enough. However, we try to put salt in everything. Bread, pasta and cheeses already contain more sodium than we need, but that is too little for us – we salt porridges, vegetables, soups… They say it is tastier that way.
But this is just a habit, a bad habit, an addiction like smoking or drinking coffee. Of course, if you switch from consuming 20-30 grams of salt per day to 0 grams per day, your food will seem terrible. But no one needs this amount of salt! If you realize this and gradually stop consuming salt, food will soon have its natural taste, not distorted by anything, and in a year or two even the slightest addition of salt will be perceived as spoiling a product.
Here is what one person one friend of mine tells about it: “It took me a long time to stop eating salt. For a couple of years, I was decreasing the amount of salt I put in my food until it was a really small amount and then, after fasting for 8 days for the first time, I stopped salting my food at all. Honestly speaking, millet porridge and buckwheat seemed tasteless for a long time and sometimes I could not resist using salt. But there was no struggle and I did not need to force myself. Under the influence of yoga and by force of habit, I started feeling, without any struggle, that salt is absolutely unnecessary. And in one more year no one would be able to make me salt porridge or any other food.”
But do we need to stop using salt? Is it that terrible? Yes, it is. Nature has not created any mechanisms protecting us from excess of salt, because until recently (on the scale of evolution) there was no such problem. The habit to salt food is an exclusive privilege and disaster of Homo sapiens. That can be proved by the fact that our kidneys are not able of removing sodium effectively. When we eat something salty, our ion balance is disturbed and we need to drink water to decrease the concentration of sodium. We become thirsty. But sodium is very closely connected to potassium and in case of lack of the latter one, sodium does not leave our body, keeping the water we have drunk. There comes the failure of all our systems’ functioning, abnormal heart overload, edemas etc. This can be a reason for many diseases and a retribution for taste perversion.
It is a fact that you do not need to use a lot of salt. Many peoples do not consume salt at all. It is known that when settlers built new schools in the extreme North of Russia and tried to give salty food to local children, they refused eating it. People think that some wild animals enjoy licking salt. Paul Bragg studied those “salt licks” and found out that there is no salt on them! But at the same time there are, probably, many other healthy substances.
However, there are African communities that sometimes use salt on purpose during long travels across a desert, where there is no water. After every time they drink water (1-2 times per day!) they eat a couple of salty olives. Salt blocks water and does not let it leave the body. This trick is known by experienced travelers. They say that often they have a piece of bread with salt and tea for breakfast and then they do not feel thirsty the whole day.
Of course, there is some sense in it. However, the described cases are obviously extreme and do not have much to do with our everyday routine. Moreover, the amount of salt consumed by Africans in this example is very small. It does not have anything in common with a popular habit of drinking salty water in the factories or during any hard labor, and just putting salt in every meal throughout a day.
Nowadays, it is known that even during strong heat and during overloads a person does not need a lot of salt. When there is an excess of it, a person starts sweating a lot, his pores become clogged and evaporation processes are limited, whereas in people who do not use salt water freely evaporates in the heat (of course if you do not drink too much) through the pores, which increase the overall area of skin significantly due to their structure. Consequently, the body cools down much faster.
Those are not purely theoretical arguments. They are based on experience and are fully confirmed by practice. The myth about necessity of salt during the heat was debunked by Paul Bragg when he, already in an advanced age, made his famous passage through the Death Valley in California, US. He was accompanied by 10 young sportsmen. Bragg was fasting the whole day and just drank water from a flask from time to time, while his companions were drinking liters of water, taking salt pills (it was around 41C hot) and eating a lot. In 8 hours two sportsmen fell from thermal shock, while the other had already left the track earlier. So only the elderly Bragg, who did not eat salt, managed to finish the 10.5 hours passage fresh as a flower! Moreover, next day he went all the way back without eating salt again.
We could, of course, give here numbers showing the connection between salt consumption and heart attacks, hypertonia, atherosclerosis, edemas and kidney diseases, but that would be quite boring.
Nevertheless, there are some health improvement methods using salt sucking for digestion stimulation and it is even recommended to eat more salty, spicy and pickled products for the same purpose. In some cases (and in some diseases), this might be reasonable. Salt and pepper increase Yang energy, which is used for better digestion of medium-quality food and for maintaining Yang balance in case it was disturbed. However, if one constantly takes these products as a medicine, their effectiveness will soon decrease as the organism will get used to them.
Use of salt also depends on climate conditions. In the southern latitudes people normally need more salt and spices than in the northern ones.
In general, we can conclude that though a small amount of salt and spices can be used, consuming big doses of spicy, salty and pickled food can lead to a bunch of chronical diseases.
As far as salt is concerned… We can say that a person living in a place with moderate climate and doing an average amount of physical activity needs approximately 1 gram of sodium per day. People who do hard physical work in the heat need up to 2 grams. So, physiologically speaking it is reasonable to consume 1-2 grams of salt per day. Instead of table salt it is better to use sea salt, containing apart from sodium many other valuable compounds. Larger crystals of sea salt can be easily crushed in a coffee-grinder. Actually, you do not even need to buy salt, I have never seen anybody suffering physically from the lack of it, no matter how hard they work. But if it is needed to add some taste, for example, in dishes with mushrooms and some other ones, it is fine to use it sometimes, as its rare consumption (even in bigger doses) does not cause any negative effects.
I would like to end this part with the words of Paul Bragg: “Salt cannot be digested, assimilated, or utilized by the body. … Instead, it is positively harmful and may bring on troubles in the kidneys, bladder, heart, arteries, veins, and blood vessels. Salt may waterlog the tissues, causing a dropsical condition… If salt is so dangerous to health, why is it used so widely? Mainly because it’s a habit ingrained over the years. But it’s a habit based on a serious misconception that the body needs it.” (P. Bragg).
No, we certainly do not need excess of salt. Our need for sodium can be easily satisfied by eating normal food.
Text: from the book A.Eddar “Treatise of nutrition”. Interpreter: Liza Dukhova