You don't need to eat a low sodium diet if you have cancer. Unhealthy foods are the cause of most of our diseases, not salt.
In this blog post, you will learn about the history of salt and how it's made. And lastly, you will find out why you don't need to avoid salt in most cases.
The History Of Salt
We have loved salt for many millennia. Thousands of years ago, Chinese salt history began with the mythical Huangdi. He invented writing, weaponry, and transportation. According to the legends, he fought the first war over salt.
One of the earliest verifiable saltworks in China was in the northern province of Shanxi. This region had desert mountains and the salty lake Yuncheng. There was constant warfare over the control of this lake.
Chinese historians are sure that by 6000 b.c., the lake's waters evaporated in the summer sun. People then harvested the square crystals on the surface of the water.
Archaeologists found human bones around the lake. Historians speculate that these inhabitants may have gathered salt from the lake.
The earliest written record of salt production in China dates back to around 800 b.c. People collected ocean water in clay vessels. They then boiled the water until salt crystals remained.
The Chinese used salt in their condiments.
The Chinese Produced Salt In Pans
About 450 b.c. the Chinese produced salt in pans. It's believed that Yi Dun made salt by boiling brine in iron pans. This innovation would become one of the leading ways for making salt in the next 2000 years.
Throughout the long history of China, sprinkling salt on food was a rarity. The Chinese used salt in various condiments, sauces, and pastes. Salt was expensive, and by making these condiments, you could use less salt.
Fish fermented in salt was one of the most popular salt condiments in ancient China. They added soybeans to ferment with the fish. In time the fish disappeared altogether from the recipe which we in the West call soy sauce.
Chinese governments for centuries used salt as a source of state revenue. Texts found in China mentioned a salt tax in the 20th-century b.c.
Egypt was also one of the first countries to use salt.
Egyptians Used Salt Around 3000 B.C.
The earliest Egyptian burial sites that we have found were close to the desert. They date from about 3000 b.c. It is also our earliest record of salt making in Sichuan.
The corpses at these early burial sites still have flesh and skin. They are not mummies but are in excellent condition 5000 years later. The dry, salty desert sand protected them.
Egyptian upper-class tombs contained detailed information about food. Remains of food found in a tomb from before 2000 b.c. include:
Other findings in tombs included salted fish and table salt. The ancient Egyptians may have been the first to preserve meat and fish with salt. They were the first civilization to conserve food on a large scale.
The Egyptians made salt by evaporating seawater in the Nile Delta. Dragging and gathering were the original Egyptian way of salt gathering. They also obtained salt from African trade from Libya and Ethiopia.
Although salt was a valuable commodity for trade, it was bulky. The Egyptians did not export significant quantities of salt. Instead, they shipped a lot of salted food such as fish to the Middle East. Salty food would shape economies for the next four millennia.
Salt was also a significant part of Roman history.
Salt In The Roman Empire
Celtic inventions in salt mining, the iron, agriculture, trade, horsemanship enriched the Roman Empire. Celtic salt mines became part of Roman wealth.
The earliest record of Roman government interference in salt prices was in 506 b.c. Marcus Livius created the salt tax system. Because of his salt price scheme, he became known as the salinator.
The first of the great Roman roads was the Via Salaria or Salt Road. This road brought salt not only to Rome but also across the peninsula. As Rome expanded, transporting salt longer distances by road became too costly.
The Roman army required salt for its soldiers, horses, and livestock. At times the army even paid soldiers in salt, which was the origin of the word salary. The Latin phrase sal became the French word solde, meaning pay, which is the origin of the word, soldier.
Romans also used salt in their food.
Romans Salted Their Foods
The Romans developed saltworks throughout their empire. They boiled sea salt in pottery, which they broke after a solid salt block had formed inside. The Romans pumped seawater into single ponds and evaporated it with the sun. They also mined rock salt.
The Romans salted their greens. They believed that salt helped reduce the natural bitterness. This action is the origin of the word salad, salted.
Most of the salt consumed by Romans was already in their food when they bought it at the market. Winemakers even added salt to wine in a spicy mixture called defrutum. The salt helped preserve the wine.
Romans used a great deal of salt in their hams and other pork products. They seemed to have learned about it from the Celts. Salsamentum, from sal, salt, was the Roman word for salted products. The most commercially important salsamentum was salt fish.
So now that you learned about salt's long history let's find out more about it.
What Is Salt?
Table salt is one of the most common household chemicals. Table salt is 97% to 99% sodium chloride, NaCl. There can also be other compounds present in table salt. In its pure form, sodium chloride is white.
Table salt may be white or may have a faint purple or blue tinge from impurities. One source of salt is the mineral halite or rock salt.
Mined halite often occurs with other minerals, including some that are toxic. Some of the impurities can be up to 15% of the mass of the product. Unpurified rock salt may occur in any color, depending on its chemistry.
Another common source of table salt is sea salt. Sea salt consists mainly of sodium chloride. Halite or sea salt contains equal amounts of sodium by weight.
Sea salt may be dull brown or gray. It also has magnesium, calcium chlorides, sulfates, algae, sediments, and bacteria. These substances give sea salt a complex flavor. Depending on its source, sea salt may contain pollutants.
Human salt consumption accounts for 6% of the salt used worldwide every year. The remaining 94% helps deice roads, soften water, and aid agriculture. Industries also use salt to manufacture PVC, plastics, and paper pulp.
So how is salt made?
How Salt It Made
You can find salt across the globe. Today we rely on three main methods to source salt:
Ordinary table salt is often derived from salt brines. The industry often uses the majority of salt produced through mining. Gourmet salts will more often come from seawater evaporations.
The fastest way to produce salt is by pumping water beneath the earth's surface into brines. These modern methods place the seawater in unique concentrating ponds.
The resulting brine is highly concentrated. Later this brine passes to a crystallizing pond where the final salt grains form. These ponds range from 20 to 400 acres in size.
A purification plant picks up the brine. The plant then removes impurities such as magnesium and calcium. What's left is a near-pure sodium chloride crystal.
This technique is only effective in areas with low rainfall. Thus, the majority of sea salt produced come from dry climates such as the Mediterranean and Australia.
There are also natural methods to collect salt.
Traditional Ways To Create Sea Salt And Rock Salt
3.5% of the world's oceans are salt. If you fill shallow ponds or bays with seawater, they will evaporate, dry up, and leave salt crystals behind. We then harvest the resulting crystals. This natural process is the oldest method of salt production.
Some producers make salt according to ancient methods. Only a smaller production of sea salt follows old practices. Fleur de sel is one such example. It's a light, flaky salt manufactured in small shallow ponds in France.
You can find rock salt in unique caves. Rock salt formed when sea salt evaporated into large salt deposits over time. Specialized equipment cuts the salt beds into large blocks. Then explosives break the blocks up into smaller fragments.
The Sifto Salt Mine in Ontario, Canada, is the largest in the world. At 2000 feet deep(61 m), it produces over seven million tonnes of salt per year, ranging from 92-98% purity. It is these impurities that often give rock salts their grey, pink or brown hue.
Sifto salt often fails to meet the 97% sodium chloride requirement to be used in food. Most rock salt, therefore, goes to highway deicing and industrial purposes. Only a tiny proportion of rock salts are food-grade, such as Himalayan pink salt.
Salt is essential to make the food taste much better.
Humans Love The Taste Of Salt
Humans love salt. If most cooks had to use only one spice for the rest of their lives, most would probably choose salt. We taste salty foods like we do sweets throughout the mouth.
The body has receptors for detecting salt. They go all the way through the mouth and down to the gut. We are salt seekers causing us to consume essential minerals, including sodium.
Today, Americans consume much more sodium than health authorities recommend. They eat about 3400 mg of sodium per day. Processed foods account for about 75% of the total sodium consumed. A significant source of sodium in most diets comes from sodium chloride.
Processed food manufacturers use salt to increase sales and consumption. Salt fixes a lot of problems in processed foods. It makes junk food taste great. The food industry found clever ways to turn our instincts against us.
The overpowering taste of salt tricks us into eating foods that would repulse us. Salt hides the disgusting flavors of animal flesh and cow's milk. Manufacturers of cheese pour bags of salt to make it eatable. If they didn't, we would eat a tasteless blob of fat.
Salt often gets the blame for causing health problems. So let's learn if salt can lead to adverse health conditions.
The Health Concern Of Eating Salt - Do We Need To Eat A Low Sodium Diet?
Many scientists see salt as the villain when they study the eating habits of various populations. Sodium often gets the blame for causing hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and cancer.
The primary concern for eating salt is high blood pressure. It is a risk factor for strokes, heart attacks, and kidney disease. The biggest problem with salt is that humans often consume it in packaged and prepared foods.
We often mix salt with bacon, meat, cheese, and junk food. Therefore, we can't know if the benefits of low sodium are due to lowering the sodium or known toxins.
When people stop eating salt-laden junk food, they often give up the fat, cholesterol, meat, and sugar. Researchers then hale the low sodium for this positive effect. But the salt is an innocent bystander rather than the villain.
Vegetarians have lower blood pressure regardless of their sodium intake. Indigenous communities with little hypertension often consume a vegetarian diet. When they eat the western diet with more animal products, they develop more diseases.
The result is hypertension, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It's the foods, not the salt, that is behind it all. Eating salt is not wrong when you add it in small amounts to healthy foods like starches and vegetables.
Our kidneys can regulate our salt intake. Find out more in the next section.
Does Salt Destroy Our Kidneys And Cause Stomach Cancer?
Salt often gets a bad name when it comes to the health of the kidneys and heart. Human kidneys conserve sodium and excrete potassium.
Death from eating excess sodium is rare in an otherwise healthy person. The effect can happen if you consume extreme levels of salt fast, without drinking water.
When you eat a low sodium diet, the intestines increase their sodium absorption. The kidneys then reduce the loss into the urine. If the diet is high in salt, then the opposite effect occurs. Healthy bodies always manage to regulate salt in the proper proportions.
Humans consume a wide range of sodium from less than 250 mg/day to over 30 000 mg/day. For example, the Yanomamo Indians living in the Amazon Basin of Brazil consumed 200 mg of sodium daily.
In 1959, Korean soldiers ate 11 000 mg of sodium daily. Farmers in Northern Japan used 10 000 mg of salt per day. But they managed to survive anyway.
It's impossible to know sodium is the cause of cancer. Can the negative impact be because high salt consumers also eat more meat or processed foods? Red and processed meat, and the lack of fruits and vegetables are the real cause of this deadly cancer.
A vegetarian diet is better at fixing our diseases, not a low salt diet.
A Vegetarian Diet Can Fix Diseases More Than Eating A Low Salt Diet
Plant foods are low in sodium, chloride, and fat and high in potassium. The exception is nuts, seeds, and avocados. Plants have thousands of ingredients that keep the blood pressure low. They also make the blood vessels strong and the body healthy.
People who exclude salt but not other unhealthy foods are doomed to fail. They will not improve their health.
One positive effect of eating low sodium is that it makes the food less palatable. The result is that people may eat less food which leads to weight loss. But the positive effect was from giving up the bacon and the cheese, not the salt.
Salt restriction can be lifesaving for people with severely damaged hearts and kidneys. Sensitive people can develop swelling from salt. They may get swollen feet after a couple of salty tomato juices. These patients need to avoid salt.
But should we all avoid salt?
Why You Don't Need To Eat A Low Sodium Diet To Be Healthy
If you don't suffer from severe kidney or heart problems, eating a salt-free diet is pointless. A small amount of salt such as half a teaspoon a day sprinkled on foods causes no ill effect for most people. Eating a diet high in potassium or low in fat, such as vegetables and fruits, lowers salt's adverse effects.
A diet of starches, vegetables, and fruits with no added sodium provides less than 500 mg of sodium daily. Adding a half-teaspoon of salt daily adds about 1100 mg of sodium. The total daily intake is 1600 mg of sodium. The low sodium diet fed to heart attack patients contains 2000 mg of sodium.
Those who have gone on a salt-free diet sometimes complain about dizziness and low energy. But when these people add salt back to their diet, their symptoms disappear. If adding salt to your diet doesn't cause you any problems, it is unnecessary to stop it.
A benefit of salt is that it can make it easier for us to eat healthy plant foods. If you avoid processed foods, you will reduce your salt intake to better levels. And if you ditch animal products, most ill effects will disappear. That is a smarter move than avoiding salt altogether.
One of the earliest verifiable saltworks in China was in the northern province of Shanxi.
About 450 b.c. the Chinese produced salt in pans.
The ancient Egyptians may have been the first to preserve meat and fish with salt.
The Roman army required salt for its soldiers, horses, and livestock.
Roman soldiers got pain in salt, which was the origin of the word salary.
Table salt is 97% to 99% sodium chloride, NaCl.
We source salt by evaporating seawater, mining rocky-salt formations within the earth, and creating salt brines.
Processed foods account for about 75% of the total sodium consumed.
Junk food manufacturers use salt to increase sales and consumption.
Sodium often gets the blame for causing hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and cancer.
Vegetarians have lower blood pressure regardless of their sodium intake.
Eating a healthy plant-based diet is more important than giving up salt.
How To Be Healthy Without Eating A Low Sodium Diet
1. Ditch animal products and junk food
2. Eat a healthy plant-based diet
3. Sprinkle a bit of salt at the end of your cooking
4. Read our free plant nutrition guide
If you have cancer and don't suffer from severe kidney issues or heart problems, eating a low sodium diet is unnecessary.
One of the first things you should do to avoid these issues is to ditch animal products. When you stop eating meat, you can also fight cancer better.
Consuming healthy plants can do more to your health than avoiding salt. So eat more vegetables and fruits. If you eat a plant-based diet adding some salt will not make you sicker.
After you have started to eat more plants, add salt at the end of your cooking. By doing so, you can easily swallow the food and enjoy it. You don't need much salt in your food to make it palatable. Just sprinkle some salt until you enjoy the taste.
If you want to be healthy, you should read our free plant nutrition guide. Discover everything you need to know to fight cancer with vegetables.
Read The Ultimate Cancer Diet And Nutrition Guide For Free
Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about plant nutrition.
Find out about micro-and macro-nutrients and how to thrive on a vegetarian diet.