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How Unrefined Sea Salt Can Enhance Your Health
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The associated “flavor” of Winter in Chinese Medicine is salt. Salt has a grounding and descending energy in the body. It helps move energy into your core and into the lower portion of your body, as is appropriate in winter. In Chinese medicine, winter is the season of "storage," the time of year in which we are focusing on consolidating and conserving our energy so that we can spring forth when springtime finally arrives again.
If you’ve ever heard someone referred to as the “salt of the earth,” you know that salt has a sense of solidity and strength attached to it.
Salt has a really bad reputation in our culture, but I think that’s mostly because the salt we consume is HIGHLY PROCESSED and stripped of its minerals. You may find “sea salt” in the health food store, but check to see if the label says “unrefined” (meaning minimally processed).
Beware of cheap (inexpensive) sea salt, which was probably heated and processed, though cheap sea salt is still so much better than cheap iodized salt, which has been heated and refined to the point where there is virtually no chance of any of the trace minerals being intact.
A good quality sea salt usually costs around $6-12 per pound. If that makes you gasp (which I completely understand), consider that a pound of salt should last you many many many months! Buying one bag of good sea salt and throwing away your iodized salt (sorry Morton girl!) is a great investment in your health. If you're worried about iodine, you should add seaweed (which you can refer to by the perhaps more palatable name "sea vegetables") to your diet.
Unrefined (unprocessed) salt from the ocean or salt lakes or salt from the Himalayan mountains (pink salt is in vogue but I prefer humble sea salt to the pretty-in-pink Himalayan salt) has an earthy and complex flavor that you won’t find in iodized table salt. That flavor is produced by the trace minerals naturally found in unrefined sea salt. You know that you’re looking at actual unrefined sea salt if the color of your salt is a light grey or off-white.
My favorite salt, by the way, is this salt, available on Amazon or at most Whole Foods. I get absolutely nothing if you buy this salt, other than the gift of helping you find a product I love that will enhance your love of cooking. It's available in a coarse grind or in a finer grind. I like the coarse grind, as I don't usually salt things at the table but I do cook most dishes with salt.
Salt can help to strengthen digestion as it promotes bowel movements, and it can be used for detoxification either internally or externally as a scrub or a bath. Because sea salt contains trace minerals that we need in only very small amounts in our diets, a little bit of good salt can help us meet our daily nutritional needs. Because salt is contractive in nature, adding a little salt to your cooking will help you to bring the flavors of your meal together to meld more beautifully.
Salt intake needs vary greatly from one individual to the next. My recommendation for everyone is that you switch your salt intake to a higher quality salt (which you will be far less likely to overeat than processed/refined salt*) and watch out for highly-refined sodium in processed food. If you have high blood pressure or edema, consult your doctor before getting overly cozy with salt.
*A radical shift will occur when you start eating whole foods (actual food, unprocessed food). Because whole foods have not been tampered with and have all of their minerals in tact, you will actually get signs of satiation, of being full, when you eat whole foods that you will never get when you eat processed foods. Your body can tell when a mineral or nutritional component normally found in that food is missing (because it has been refined out), and it will not let you know that you are full/satisfied because you are missing that nutritional need.
What do you think? What is your current relationship with salt? Leave a comment on facebook and let me know.