The American Heart Association states that the average American consumes about 6 to 18 grams of salt daily, or roughly one to three teaspoonfuls per day. That means that some Americans eat close to 15 pounds of salt per year. Yet the same organization states that we need only about 200 mg to 500 mg each day, or about ¼ teaspoon daily.
The largest percentage of salt in the diet, approximately 85% of salt consumption, comes from prepackaged foods and snacks. The reason is that the base ingredients of these foods have been so heavily refined, “enriched” with cheap vitamins and minerals, and drenched in chemical preservatives designed to give them the longest shelf-life possible, that few people would eat these products without the large volume of salt added to them for taste or to enhance the taste.
Excess salt intake can lead to cardiovascular disease, which includes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (heart attack and chest pain), stroke, and congestive heart failure. One AHA report stated that cardiovascular disease kills more Americans than the next seven causes combined — including cancer.
While some salt intake is necessary for life, too much salt is poisonous to life. Salt is used to preserve and cure foods — ham and fish for example — because it kills life in the food as well as inhibits microbial growth, keeping the foods from decomposing. Rest assured, salt’s ability to kill cells and microbes does not stop simply because it is ingested into the human body. If the salt has not been heat treated, while it may eventually be broken down by the body into a form it can use, when it initially enters the body it has a negative effect on living matter in the body in the same manner as chlorinated water or antibiotics, especially in the excessive amounts it is being consumed by most Americans. In doses of 1.5 to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight, salt can be lethal for humans, and there have been reports of babies and small children being killed by accidental salt poisoning.
Probably the biggest problem with salt, in the form of normal table salt, is that it is an inorganic source of sodium (table salt is sodium chloride, a compound formed when sodium and chlorine bond together). To understand this, it must be understood that any vitamin or mineral will be most useable by the human body when it comes from a food. Humans could not use ground up rocks as a source of nutrition, even though this would contain minerals in abundance. However, humans can live on food which has been allowed to grow on soil containing ground up rocks, with the foods assimilating the minerals from the rock dust into a living, organic form easily used by the human body.
To understand the inorganic nature of salt, it would be similar to comparing the iron in spinach to an iron supplement that consists of tiny shavings off of a piece of iron. One is from a living, organic source with a long history of use as a food and its iron would be easily assimilated and used by the the human body, and the other is nothing more than a ground up rock and would be much more difficult for the body to use, if it can use it at all. Indeed, while vitamins and minerals from foods are rarely toxic even in large doses, vitamins and minerals from inorganic sources are often toxic if the dosage is increased only slightly above normal levels.
It must be understood that normal table salt is much closer to being a ground up rock than it is an organic mineral coming from a food source. And to compound matters, like most staples of the SAD diet, salt is processed and refined so that it will pour freely and doesn’t cake together in the salt shaker under humid conditions. The processing involves kiln firing the salt at up to 1200 degrees F. and adding other inorganic substances, again of questionable use by the body, such as potassium iodide, dextrose, and calcium silicate.
The high temperatures salt is subjected to changes it chemically so that new compounds are formed in it and it becomes insoluble in water. With the salt now being insoluble in water, it is not only unusable by the body but the body must expend its energy trying to expel the substance from the body. It is also worth noting that unprocessed sea salt can contains up to 84 trace minerals, admittedly in an inorganic form, but it is plausible that some of these trace minerals could be used by the body. David Wolfe, a prominent figure in the raw food movement, maintains that kiln-firing salts “causes all the trace minerals to oxidize and evaporate right off.”
Interestingly, while the body is more than capable of expelling excess inorganic salt that it can’t use, excess salt or a breakdown in the body’s ability to expel the salt can cause it to store the salt in the body. While the body normally uses salt to regulate the amount of water in it — salt retains water and potassium makes the body lose water — excess salt in the body can lead to excess water in the body. Victoria BidWell, in The Salt Conspiracy, wrote, “One ounce of ingested salt holds three quarts of water — or 6 pounds of excess bodily water and fluids — in suspension. Consider. . .an ounce of salt in the body will seize and hold three quarts of water! This means. . .salt holds 96 times its weight in water!”
Excess salt in the diet causes problems because the extra water it holds in the body creates a burden on the heart and cardiovascular system. Some of the salt-related conditions that are caused by water retention in the body are, edema (accumulation of fluid beneath the skin), anasarca (severe, generalized edema), and high blood pressure. Victoria BidWell, again in The Salt Conspiracy, explained the immediate benefits of withholding excess salt from the body:
Hygienic theory explains that the human body stores in the less vital tissues the waste and poisons it lacks energy to expel. Since these poisons cannot, in a state of on-going enervation, be excreted, they are deposited in those tissues in which they would do least harm: connective tissues, fatty tissues, subcutaneous tissues.
That this theory is indeed truth is demonstrated without fail when a swelled, fleshy Sufferer from The Salty, SAD Diet undertakes a fast. Within 2 to 3 days, he loses as much as 10 to 20 pounds, most of which is water weight. Even if he does not have the wherewithal to fast and simply goes 100% on The Salt-Free Ideal Diet for 5 days (!) — his swelling is greatly reduced. The Sufferers of edema, obesity, and/or anasarca — without exception — find immediate, joyful relief by turning to Hygiene.
Probably some of the confusion about salt comes from the fact that sodium is needed by the body. A reader may ask, “How could salt be a ‘poison’ when it is required by the body?” However, it is both the amount and type of salt being ingested by Americans that cause the problems. The sodium issue is so important for those on the journey to health that it will be addressed again in a later chapter with suggestions on how to meet the body’s needs in a healthy way.