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SALT — A DEADLY FOOD?

by Yeong Sek Yee

A universal commodity, just like sugar, salt was so valuable in ancient times that it had served as a currency unit and this had influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions. Today it is consumed in abundance.

Salt contains both sodium and chlorine, and is chemically known as “sodium chloride” and it is commonly used to flavour and preserve foods. Before refrigeration was common, large amounts of salt were needed to prevent foods from spoiling.

Our bodies require salt. But today’s problem is that our diet usually includes far more than our daily requirement: 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day or less than 1 teaspoon, whether it is table or sea salt. Yes, the requirement for sodium in the body is much less than the amount usually eaten in the modern diet system.

Most of the salt eaten comes from processed and packaged foods such as sauces, processed meats, stock cubes and soups as well as breads and cereals. Salt in our diet also comes from the salt added at the table and in cooking.

Is sea salt better? According to the American Heart Association, sea salt and table salt (both  contain about 40 percent sodium) have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often marketed as a more natural and healthy alternative. The most notable differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste, texture and processing and some minerals present in sea salt.

However, in the case of table salt, it is highly processed. It is bleached, filtered, and stripped of other naturally occurring trace minerals. Then chemicals are added to keep the salt from absorbing water and clumping. Why was this necessary? Years ago salt producers decided that bright white salt was prettier than off-white salt; and that consumers prefer pretty white salt. So they started bleaching it. They also add anti-caking agents to increase salt’s shelf life.  The problem is the chemicals added to keep salt from absorbing moisture on the shelf interfere with one of salt’s main functions: to regulate hydration in your body.

Your body retains water to protect itself and your cells release water to help dilute, neutralize, and break down the salt. This loss of water dehydrates and weakens cells, and can even cause them to die prematurely.  Refined salt, along with denatured fats like margarine and processed butter can cause red blood cells to clump, reducing their ability to absorb oxygen and carry it to certain cells in the body.

Excess sodium intake (whether it is table or sea salt) can cause high blood pressure, excess water retention and irregular heart beat and can be the underlying cause of a myriad of devastating health issues such as heart attacks and strokes and cancer. High amounts of salt in the diet have been linked with stomach cancer.

In the book, “THE HALLELUJAH DIET” by Reverand George Malkmus, a pastor and colon cancer survivor, white salt is described as one of the deadly foods in his biblical research after he decided to use the power of God’s living foods to heal his colon cancer. (The other dead foods are meat, milk and cheese, white sugar, white flour and caffeine). According to Rev Malkmus, “salt has been traditionally used as an antiseptic and food preservative. That’s because salt is toxic to living things, and it effectively kills bacteria and anything else exposed to it in high concentrations….for the same reason, when we exceed our body’s requirement for salt, we present a toxic substance that wreaks havoc in our system and in our cells…” Isn’t this scary?

Another piece of more scary information on salt is found in the book “NEVER FEAR CANCER AGAIN” by Raymond Francis, MSc. According to the author ……..”excess salt is both an on switch and a driver of cancer” A number of studies, including a 1991 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have found strong links between excess dietary sodium and cancer. Increasing sodium intake not only increases the incidence of cancer, it also accelerates metastasis. 

One of the fundamental changes we have made in our diet is the relative amount of sodium and potassium we consume. Historically, our diets were rich in potassium and low in sodium. Traditional human diets contain about 4 times as much potassium as sodium. Today, the ratio is reversed, and the average person now consumes 4 times more sodium than potassium. This is happening because we eat fewer potassium-containing fruits and vegetables and lots of processed foods, which contain enormous amounts of salt. Consuming these salt-filled processed foods has altered the natural balance between sodium and potassium in our bodies. Too much salt damages the body’s electrical system and makes our cells too acidic, both leading to dire consequences. 

Hence at CA CARE, we advise cancer patients to go easy on salt intake, be it refined table salt or natural sea salt.