One of my priorities in my journey towards leading a healthy lifestyle is to seek those simple and cheap lifestyle tweaks first before moving on to the more cumbersome and expensive changes. What are these simple and cheap health tweaks? These are simply simple switches to unrefined or less-refined foods and toiletries-- those that are not extensively processed. Hence my switch to muscovado which is unrefined sugar, corn coffee which I cook myself and less-refined rice varieties such as unpolished brown rice and the other colored varieties such as red rice and black rice.
Probably the simplest health hack we all could do is to simply make sure that we are using unrefined salt. And so the big question is: Is the salt we see in Philippine markets unrefined? I am so happy to find that the answer could be a resounding Yes.
Market Man of marketmanila.com opines in this article that about 98% of the Philippine population consume organic sea salt that is hand-collected and sun-dried and thus abounding in naturally-occurring sea minerals.
Salt collection is done by running sea water through a series of sloping shallow ponds that have a cemented and tiled floor. As the sea water goes through the salt ponds under the intense heat of the sun, the water evaporates, leaving the salt crystals behind. The salt crystals are then gathered into baskets where moisture drains naturally and then put into sacks for sale to markets.
However, I found this article which rather upsets me as the salt ponds used are simply made with a plastic sheeting as the floor. Yikes! This deserves another post, however, and so I leave it at that. The point simply is that salt collection and making in the Philippines, unlike that in the US, is more rustic and thus better able to retain the goodness of salt.
What are the visual characteristics of unrefined sea salt?
Salt crystals from the Philippine seas are described as grayish or off-white in color, the crystals squarish in shape and naturally clumpy and a bit moist in texture. Remember these 4 adjectives so you can spot unrefined sea salt (at least from the Philippines): grayish or off-white, squarish crystals, clumpy and moist.
Now contrast this with refined salt which, for commercial purposes, is made pristine white, ultra-fine, free-flowing and absolutely dry. How is this done? This article details how refined salt is made and it’s quite horrifying. In a nutshell, salt is treated with chemicals to separate the minerals (which are then sold, probably to mineral supplement manufacturers), so that what is left are salt that have been stripped of life-giving minerals.
What’s more, this dead salt is then subjected to intense heat and pressure so as to dry the salt. In the process, the molecular structure of the salt is destroyed. Next, free-flowing agents are then used to make salt easy to use in a salt shaker. The end point is that salt looks divinely white and smooth-flowing but is actually salt that is devoid of minerals and contains harmful chemical residues. Worse, they are so altered that the body has a hard time metabolizing them.
Why is this done? Well, to attract buyers and lengthen shelf life, that’s why. Unrefined sea salt, being grayish in color is not very appealing and looks rather dirty. It is also moist and will be a headache to package. Fortunately for us Filipinos, our salt-making industry is backward and not equipped with this technology. Thanks to our backwardness , our salt is unrefined sea salt -- the salt that God designed to be spewed forth by the oceans He made, intended to nourish the body with essential trace minerals that support healthy neuromuscular and metabolic functions.
The bottomline is that we should simply look for unrefined sea salt in our fresh markets, and they have these characteristics:
- grayish of off-white (not dead-white and therefore not artifically bleached)
- moist (not dry and thus naturally sun-dried) and
- clumpy (not mixed with free-flowing agents)
By the way, unrefined salt is the low-cost salt that we often see in our wet markets in the Philippines. Do spread the word that this salt -- not the more expensive and better-looking salt in groceries -- is really the salt that is chock full of minerals that our bodies need.