Most weekends we treat our kids to waffles using grandma’s old recipe. One Sunday, my visiting niece watched us mixing up the batter and asked, “Why is your flour dirty?” It took a second to realize that she wasn’t used to seeing our freshly-ground wheat flour, and compared to her family’s bleached white flour, ours definitely looked “dirty.” She wasn’t convinced, but we explained that even though real flour looks and tastes a little different from white flour, it’s actually better for us.
If you were to pay a visit to Real Salt’s customer service department, you wouldn’t have to wait long before someone calls with a similar question: Why is Real Salt dirty? Is there sand in Real Salt? Why doesn’t Real Salt dissolve completely like other salt? The short answer to all these questions is the same: This is what salt really looks like when nature makes salt.
Just like minimally-processed flour is healthier than “normal” white flour, Real Salt is healthier than other salts because of the things we don’t take out of it. Real Salt is 98% sodium chloride and 2% trace minerals, and it’s these 60+ trace minerals that make Real Salt real. Some of these minerals don’t dissolve in water, but they are bio-available (your body can absorb and use them as nature designed) and are good for your health.
What about other healthy brands?
There are two other brands of sea salt that have trace mineral content similar to Real Salt–Celtic from France, and Himalayan from Pakistan. Some people notice that these brands dissolve more completely in water than Real Salt, and wonder why. (We compared other differences between Real Salt and Celtic or Himalayan a little while ago.) Most of these granules that don’t dissolve are the trace mineral silica, an element that occurs naturally in healthy bones and joints.
Wait, did you say silica?
Yep, silica. If you’re asking, you probably remember learning that silica most often appears in nature as sand–like iron and magnesium, silica is one of those things our bodies use to stay healthy even though it seems a little strange to think of eating it. When people ask if there’s sand in Real Salt we sometimes answer, “Yes! Isn’t that wonderful?”
The health and science community recognized silica as an essential trace element in the early 1970′s, and studies since then have indicated it can perform two important tasks in our bodies: it can help calcium do its job and prevent osteoporosis, and it can prevent aluminum from contributing to Alzheimers. (Read a long article detailing these and other benefits, which include stronger hair, nails, and skin.) In other words, silica is just another of the beneficial trace minerals that Real Salt users love for their flavor and health benefits.
Healthy, “dirty” salt
My niece never came around to liking our “dirty” flour, and we know that some people won’t appreciate insoluble trace minerals like silica in Real Salt, either. But we believe in the health benefits, and it’s part of what has made Real Salt the best-selling salt in health food stores across the country. Changing our process to eliminate or reduce insolubles would only mean changing one tenth of one per cent of the product, but we’d be making Real Salt less healthful–and less real–in the process.