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Salt deposits beside the Dead Sea DeadSeaIsrael5.jpg
Salt deposits beside the Dead Sea
Halite (rock salt) from the Wieliczka salt mine, Malopolskie, Poland Halit (NaCl) - Kopalnia soli Wieliczka, Polska.jpg
Halite (rock salt) from the Wieliczka salt mine, Małopolskie, Poland
Loading sea salt at an evaporation pond in Walvis Bay; halophile organisms give it a red colour Loading sea salt at evaporation pond, Walvis Bay (2014).jpg
Loading sea salt at an evaporation pond in Walvis Bay; halophile organisms give it a red colour

Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of salts; salt in its natural form as a crystalline mineral is known as rock salt or halite. Salt is present in vast quantities in seawater, where it is the main mineral constituent. The open ocean has about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of solids per liter of sea water, a salinity of 3.5%.

Mineral Element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes

A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. Minerals are most commonly associated with rocks due to the presence of minerals within rocks. These rocks may consist of one type of mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different types of minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry. Moreover, living beings often synthesize inorganic minerals that also occur in rocks.

Sodium chloride Chemical compound

Sodium chloride, commonly known as salt, is an ionic compound with the chemical formula NaCl, representing a 1:1 ratio of sodium and chloride ions. With molar masses of 22.99 and 35.45 g/mol respectively, 100 g of NaCl contains 39.34 g Na and 60.66 g Cl. Sodium chloride is the salt most responsible for the salinity of seawater and of the extracellular fluid of many multicellular organisms. In its edible form of table salt, it is commonly used as a condiment and food preservative. Large quantities of sodium chloride are used in many industrial processes, and it is a major source of sodium and chlorine compounds used as feedstocks for further chemical syntheses. A second major application of sodium chloride is de-icing of roadways in sub-freezing weather.

Chemical compound Substance composed of multiple elements

A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules composed of atoms from more than one element held together by chemical bonds. Two atoms of the same element bonded in a molecule do not form a chemical compound, since this would require two different elements.


Salt is essential for life in general, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. Salt is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous food seasonings, and salting is an important method of food preservation.

Sodium ions (Na+) are necessary in small amounts for some types of plants, but sodium as a nutrient is more generally needed in larger amounts by animals, due to their use of it for generation of nerve impulses and for maintenance of electrolyte balance and fluid balance. In animals, sodium ions are necessary for the aforementioned functions and for heart activity and certain metabolic functions. The health effects of salt reflect what happens when the body has too much or too little sodium. Characteristic concentrations of sodium in model organisms are: 10mM in E. coli, 30mM in budding yeast, 10mM in mammalian cell and 100mM in blood plasma.

Seasoning the process of imparting flavor to or improving the flavor of food

Seasoning is the process of adding salt, herbs, or spices to food to enhance the flavour.

Salting (food) preservation of food using salt

Salting is the preservation of food with dry edible salt. It is related to pickling in general and more specifically to brining and is one form of curing. It is one of the oldest methods of preserving food, and two historically significant salt-cured foods are salted fish and salt-cured meat. Vegetables such as runner beans and cabbage are also often preserved in this manner.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates to around 6,000 BC, when people living in the area of present-day Romania boiled spring water to extract salts; a salt-works in China dates to approximately the same period. Salt was also prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites, Egyptians, and the Indians. Salt became an important article of trade and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara on camel caravans. The scarcity and universal need for salt have led nations to go to war over it and use it to raise tax revenues. Salt is used in religious ceremonies and has other cultural and traditional significance.

Spring (hydrology) A point at which water emerges from an aquifer to the surface

A spring is a point at which water flows from an aquifer to the Earth's surface. It is a component of the hydrosphere.

Hebrews is a term appearing 34 times within 32 verses of the Hebrew Bible. While the term was not an ethnonym, it is mostly taken as synonymous with the Semitic-speaking Israelites, especially in the pre-monarchic period when they were still nomadic. However, in some instances it may also be used in a wider sense, referring to the Phoenicians, or to other ancient groups, such as the group known as Shasu of Yhw on the eve of the Bronze Age collapse.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Salt is processed from salt mines, and by the evaporation of seawater (sea salt) and mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools. Its major industrial products are caustic soda and chlorine; salt is used in many industrial processes including the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride, plastics, paper pulp and many other products. Of the annual global production of around two hundred million tonnes of salt, about 6% is used for human consumption. Other uses include water conditioning processes, de-icing highways, and agricultural use. Edible salt is sold in forms such as sea salt and table salt which usually contains an anti-caking agent and may be iodised to prevent iodine deficiency. As well as its use in cooking and at the table, salt is present in many processed foods.

Salt mining mining operation involved in the extraction of rock salt or halite

A salt mine is a mine from which salt is extracted. The mined salt is usually in the form of halite, and extracted from evaporite formations.

Evaporation Type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs from its surface; surface phenomenon

Evaporation is a type of vaporization that occurs on the surface of a liquid as it changes into the gas phase. The surrounding gas must not be saturated with the evaporating substance. When the molecules of the liquid collide, they transfer energy to each other based on how they collide with each other. When a molecule near the surface absorbs enough energy to overcome the vapor pressure, it will escape and enter the surrounding air as a gas. When evaporation occurs, the energy removed from the vaporized liquid will reduce the temperature of the liquid, resulting in evaporative cooling.

Sea salt Salt produced from the evaporation of seawater

Sea salt is salt that is produced by the evaporation of seawater. It is used as a seasoning in foods, cooking, cosmetics and for preserving food. It is also called bay salt, solar salt, or salt. Like mined rock salt, production of sea salt has been dated to prehistoric times. There is no scientific evidence that consuming sea salt instead of more refined sodium chloride salts has any health benefit.

Sodium is an essential nutrient for human health via its role as an electrolyte and osmotic solute. [1] [2] [3] Excessive salt consumption may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, in children and adults. Such health effects of salt have long been studied. Accordingly, numerous world health associations and experts in developed countries recommend reducing consumption of popular salty foods. [3] [4] The World Health Organization recommends that adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, equivalent to 5 grams of salt per day. [5]

An electrolyte is a substance that produces an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water. The dissolved electrolyte separates into cations and anions, which disperse uniformly through the solvent. Electrically, such a solution is neutral. If an electric potential is applied to such a solution, the cations of the solution are drawn to the electrode that has an abundance of electrons, while the anions are drawn to the electrode that has a deficit of electrons. The movement of anions and cations in opposite directions within the solution amounts to a current. This includes most soluble salts, acids, and bases. Some gases, such as hydrogen chloride, under conditions of high temperature or low pressure can also function as electrolytes. Electrolyte solutions can also result from the dissolution of some biological and synthetic polymers, termed "polyelectrolytes", which contain charged functional groups. A substance that dissociates into ions in solution acquires the capacity to conduct electricity. Sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate are examples of electrolytes.

Osmosis Movement of water towards to more concentrated compartment

Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides. It may also be used to describe a physical process in which any solvent moves across a selectively permeable membrane separating two solutions of different concentrations. Osmosis can be made to do work. Osmotic pressure is defined as the external pressure required to be applied so that there is no net movement of solvent across the membrane. Osmotic pressure is a colligative property, meaning that the osmotic pressure depends on the molar concentration of the solute but not on its identity.

Hypertension Long term medical condition

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated. High blood pressure typically does not cause symptoms. Long-term high blood pressure, however, is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and dementia.


Salt production in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt (1670) Salzproduktion-Halle.jpg
Salt production in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt (1670)

All through history, the availability of salt has been pivotal to civilization. What is now thought to have been the first city in Europe is Solnitsata, in Bulgaria, which was a salt mine, providing the area now known as the Balkans with salt since 5400 BC. [6] Even the name Solnitsata means "salt works".

Solnitsata was an ancient town located in present-day Bulgaria, near the modern city of Provadia. Believed by Bulgarian archaeologists to be the oldest town in Europe, Solnitsata was the site of a salt production facility approximately six millennia ago; it flourished ca 4700-4200 BC. The settlement was walled to protect the salt, a crucial commodity in antiquity. Although its population has been estimated at only 350, archaeologist Vassil Nikolov argues that it meets established criteria as a prehistoric city.

Bulgaria country in Southeast Europe

Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.

Balkans Geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe

The BalkansBAWL-kənz, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range, Bulgaria.

While people have used canning and artificial refrigeration to preserve food for the last hundred years or so, salt has been the best-known food preservative, especially for meat, for many thousands of years. [7] A very ancient salt-works operation has been discovered at the Poiana Slatinei archaeological site next to a salt spring in Lunca, Neamț County, Romania. Evidence indicates that Neolithic people of the Precucuteni Culture were boiling the salt-laden spring water through the process of briquetage to extract the salt as far back as 6050 BC. [8] The salt extracted from this operation may have had a direct correlation to the rapid growth of this society's population soon after its initial production began. [9] The harvest of salt from the surface of Xiechi Lake near Yuncheng in Shanxi, China, dates back to at least 6000 BC, making it one of the oldest verifiable saltworks. [10]

There is more salt in animal tissues, such as meat, blood, and milk, than in plant tissues. [11] Nomads who subsist on their flocks and herds do not eat salt with their food, but agriculturalists, feeding mainly on cereals and vegetable matter, need to supplement their diet with salt. [12] With the spread of civilization, salt became one of the world's main trading commodities. It was of high value to the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites and other peoples of antiquity. In the Middle East, salt was used to ceremonially seal an agreement, and the ancient Hebrews made a "covenant of salt" with God and sprinkled salt on their offerings to show their trust in him. [13] [ better source needed ] An ancient practice in time of war was salting the earth: scattering salt around in a defeated city to prevent plant growth. The Bible tells the story of King Abimelech who was ordered by God to do this at Shechem, [14] and various texts claim that the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus Africanus ploughed over and sowed the city of Carthage with salt after it was defeated in the Third Punic War (146 BC). [15]

Ponds near Maras, Peru, fed from a mineral spring and used for salt production since the time of the Incas. Salinas de Maras, Peru-20Sept2013.jpg
Ponds near Maras, Peru, fed from a mineral spring and used for salt production since the time of the Incas.

Salt may have been used for barter in connection with the obsidian trade in Anatolia in the Neolithic Era. [16] Salt was included among funeral offerings found in ancient Egyptian tombs from the third millennium BC, as were salted birds, and salt fish. [17] From about 2800 BC, the Egyptians began exporting salt fish to the Phoenicians in return for Lebanon cedar, glass, and the dye Tyrian purple; the Phoenicians traded Egyptian salted fish and salt from North Africa throughout their Mediterranean trade empire. [18] Herodotus described salt trading routes across Libya back in the 5th century BC. In the early years of the Roman Empire, roads were built for the transportation of salt from the salt imported at Ostia to the capital. [19]

In Africa, salt was used as currency south of the Sahara, and slabs of rock salt were used as coins in Abyssinia. [12] Moorish merchants in the 6th century traded salt for gold, weight for weight.[ dubious ] The Tuareg have traditionally maintained routes across the Sahara especially for the transportation of salt by Azalai (salt caravans). The caravans still cross the desert from southern Niger to Bilma, although much of the trade now takes place by truck. Each camel takes two bales of fodder and two of trade goods northwards and returns laden with salt pillars and dates. [20] In Gabon, before the arrival of Europeans, the coast people carried on a remunerative trade with those of the interior by the medium of sea salt. This was gradually displaced by the salt that Europeans brought in sacks, so that the coast natives lost their previous profits; as of the author's writing in 1958, sea salt was still the currency best appreciated in the interior. [21]

Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Hallein lie within 17 km (11 mi) of each other on the river Salzach in central Austria in an area with extensive salt deposits. Salzach literally means "salt river" and Salzburg "salt castle", both taking their names from the German word Salz meaning salt and Hallstatt was the site of the world's first salt mine. [22] The town gave its name to the Hallstatt culture that began mining for salt in the area in about 800 BC. Around 400 BC, the townsfolk, who had previously used pickaxes and shovels, began open pan salt making. During the first millennium BC, Celtic communities grew rich trading salt and salted meat to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome in exchange for wine and other luxuries. [7]

The word salary comes from the Latin word for salt. The reason for this is unknown; a persistent modern claim that the Roman Legions were sometimes paid in salt is baseless. [23] [24] [25] The word salad literally means "salted", and comes from the ancient Roman practice of salting leaf vegetables. [26]

Wars have been fought over salt. Venice fought and won a war with Genoa over the product, and it played an important part in the American Revolution. Cities on overland trade routes grew rich by levying duties, [27] and towns like Liverpool flourished on the export of salt extracted from the salt mines of Cheshire. [28] Various governments have at different times imposed salt taxes on their peoples. The voyages of Christopher Columbus are said to have been financed from salt production in southern Spain, and the oppressive salt tax in France was one of the causes of the French Revolution. After being repealed, this tax was reimposed by Napoleon when he became emperor to pay for his foreign wars, and was not finally abolished until 1946. [27] In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led at least 100,000 people on the "Dandi March" or "Salt Satyagraha", in which protesters made their own salt from the sea thus defying British rule and avoiding paying the salt tax. This civil disobedience inspired millions of common people and elevated the Indian independence movement from an elitist movement to a national struggle. [29]


SEM image of a grain of table salt Single grain of table salt (electron micrograph).jpg
SEM image of a grain of table salt

Salt is mostly sodium chloride, the ionic compound with the formula NaCl, representing equal proportions of sodium and chlorine. Sea salt and freshly mined salt (much of which is sea salt from prehistoric seas) also contain small amounts of trace elements (which in these small amounts are generally good for plant and animal health [ citation needed ]). Mined salt is often refined in the production of table salt; it is dissolved in water, purified via precipitation of other minerals out of solution, and re-evaporated. During this same refining process it is often also iodized. Salt crystals are translucent and cubic in shape; they normally appear white but impurities may give them a blue or purple tinge. The molar mass of salt is 58.443 g/mol, its melting point is 801 °C (1,474 °F) and its boiling point 1,465 °C (2,669 °F). Its density is 2.17 grams per cubic centimetre and it is readily soluble in water. When dissolved in water it separates into Na+ and Cl ions, and the solubility is 359 grams per litre. [30] From cold solutions, salt crystallises as the dihydrate NaCl·2H2O. Solutions of sodium chloride have very different properties from those of pure water; the freezing point is −21.12 °C (−6.02 °F) for 23.31 wt% of salt, and the boiling point of saturated salt solution is around 108.7 °C (227.7 °F). [31]

Edible salt

Comparison of table salt with kitchen salt. Shows a typical salt shaker and salt bowl with salt spread before each on a black background. Comparison of Table Salt with Kitchen Salt.png
Comparison of table salt with kitchen salt. Shows a typical salt shaker and salt bowl with salt spread before each on a black background.

Salt is essential to the health of humans and other animals, and it is one of the five basic taste sensations. [32] Salt is used in many cuisines around the world, and it is often found in salt shakers on diners' eating tables for their personal use on food. Salt is also an ingredient in many manufactured foodstuffs. Table salt is a refined salt containing about 97 to 99 percent sodium chloride. [33] [34] [35] Usually, anticaking agents such as sodium aluminosilicate or magnesium carbonate are added to make it free-flowing. Iodized salt, containing potassium iodide, is widely available. Some people put a desiccant, such as a few grains of uncooked rice [36] or a saltine cracker, in their salt shakers to absorb extra moisture and help break up salt clumps that may otherwise form. [37]

Fortified table salt

Some table salt sold for consumption contains additives which address a variety of health concerns, especially in the developing world. The identities and amounts of additives vary widely from country to country. Iodine is an important micronutrient for humans, and a deficiency of the element can cause lowered production of thyroxine (hypothyroidism) and enlargement of the thyroid gland (endemic goitre) in adults or cretinism in children. [38] Iodized salt has been used to correct these conditions since 1924 [39] and consists of table salt mixed with a minute amount of potassium iodide, sodium iodide or sodium iodate. A small amount of dextrose may also be added to stabilize the iodine. [40] Iodine deficiency affects about two billion people around the world and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. [41] Iodized table salt has significantly reduced disorders of iodine deficiency in countries where it is used. [42]

The amount of iodine and the specific iodine compound added to salt varies from country to country. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends [21 CFR 101.9 (c)(8)(iv)] 150 micrograms of iodine per day for both men and women. US iodized salt contains 46–77 ppm (parts per million), whereas in the UK the iodine content of iodized salt is recommended to be 10–22 ppm. [43]

Sodium ferrocyanide, also known as yellow prussiate of soda, is sometimes added to salt as an anticaking agent. The additive is considered safe for human consumption. [44] [45] Such anticaking agents have been added since at least 1911 when magnesium carbonate was first added to salt to make it flow more freely. [46] The safety of sodium ferrocyanide as a food additive was found to be provisionally acceptable by the Committee on Toxicity in 1988. [44] Other anticaking agents sometimes used include tricalcium phosphate, calcium or magnesium carbonates, fatty acid salts (acid salts), magnesium oxide, silicon dioxide, calcium silicate, sodium aluminosilicate and calcium aluminosilicate. Both the European Union and the United States Food and Drug Administration permitted the use of aluminium in the latter two compounds. [47]

In "doubly fortified salt", both iodide and iron salts are added. The latter alleviates iron deficiency anaemia, which interferes with the mental development of an estimated 40% of infants in the developing world. A typical iron source is ferrous fumarate. [48] Another additive, especially important for pregnant women, is folic acid (vitamin B9), which gives the table salt a yellow color. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects and anaemia, which affect young mothers, especially in developing countries. [48]

A lack of fluorine in the diet is the cause of a greatly increased incidence of dental caries. [49] Fluoride salts can be added to table salt with the goal of reducing tooth decay, especially in countries that have not benefited from fluoridated toothpastes and fluoridated water. The practice is more common in some European countries where water fluoridation is not carried out. In France, 35% of the table salt sold contains added sodium fluoride. [48]

Other kinds

Irregular crystals of sea salt Sea Salt.jpg
Irregular crystals of sea salt

Unrefined sea salt contains small amounts of magnesium and calcium halides and sulfates, traces of algal products, salt-resistant bacteria and sediment particles. The calcium and magnesium salts confer a faintly bitter overtone, and they make unrefined sea salt hygroscopic (i.e., it gradually absorbs moisture from air if stored uncovered). Algal products contribute a mildly "fishy" or "sea-air" odour, the latter from organobromine compounds. Sediments, the proportion of which varies with the source, give the salt a dull grey appearance. Since taste and aroma compounds are often detectable by humans in minute concentrations, sea salt may have a more complex flavor than pure sodium chloride when sprinkled on top of food. When salt is added during cooking however, these flavors would likely be overwhelmed by those of the food ingredients. [50] The refined salt industry cites scientific studies saying that raw sea and rock salts do not contain enough iodine salts to prevent iodine deficiency diseases. [51]

Himalayan salt is halite with a distinct pink color Himalayan salt of Saude flea market, Sao Paulo, Brazil.jpg
Himalayan salt is halite with a distinct pink color

Himalayan salt is known for its distinct pink hue. It is used in cooking as a substitute for table salt. Is it also used as cookware, in salt lamps and in spas. It is mined from the Salt Range mountains in Pakistan.

Different natural salts have different mineralities depending on their source, giving each one a unique flavour. Fleur de sel, a natural sea salt from the surface of evaporating brine in salt pans, has a unique flavour varying with the region from which it is produced. In traditional Korean cuisine, so-called "bamboo salt" is prepared by roasting salt [52] in a bamboo container plugged with mud at both ends. This product absorbs minerals from the bamboo and the mud, and has been claimed to increase the anticlastogenic and antimutagenic properties of doenjang (a fermented bean paste). [53]

Kosher or kitchen salt has a larger grain size than table salt and is used in cooking. It can be useful for brining, bread or pretzel making and as a scrubbing agent when combined with oil. [54]

Pickling salt is made of ultra-fine grains to speed dissolving to make brine. Gourmet salts may be used for specific tastes.

Salt in food

Salt is present in most foods, but in naturally occurring foodstuffs such as meats, vegetables and fruit, it is present in very small quantities. It is often added to processed foods (such as canned foods and especially salted foods, pickled foods, and snack foods or other convenience foods), where it functions as both a preservative and a flavoring. Dairy salt is used in the preparation of butter and cheese products. [55] Before the advent of electrically powered refrigeration, salting was one of the main methods of food preservation. Thus, herring contains 67 mg sodium per 100 g, while kipper, its preserved form, contains 990 mg. Similarly, pork typically contains 63 mg while bacon contains 1,480 mg, and potatoes contain 7 mg but potato crisps 800 mg per 100 g. [11] Salt is also used in cooking, such as with salt crusts. The main sources of salt in the Western diet, apart from direct use of sodium chloride, are bread and cereal products, meat products and milk and dairy products. [11]

In many East Asian cultures, salt is not traditionally used as a condiment. [56] In its place, condiments such as soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce tend to have a high sodium content and fill a similar role to table salt in western cultures. They are most often used for cooking rather than as table condiments. [57]

Sodium consumption and health

Table salt is made up of just under 40% sodium by weight, so a 6 g serving (1 teaspoon) contains about 2,300 mg of sodium. [58] Sodium serves a vital purpose in the human body: via its role as an electrolyte, it helps nerves and muscles to function correctly, and it is one factor involved in the osmotic regulation of water content in body organs (fluid balance). [59] Most of the sodium in the Western diet comes from salt. [3] The habitual salt intake in many Western countries is about 10 g per day, and it is higher than that in many countries in Eastern Europe and Asia. [60] The high level of sodium in many processed foods has a major impact on the total amount consumed. [61] In the United States, 75% of the sodium eaten comes from processed and restaurant foods, 11% from cooking and table use and the rest from what is found naturally in foodstuffs. [62]

Because consuming too much sodium increases risk of cardiovascular diseases, [3] health organizations generally recommend that people reduce their dietary intake of salt. [3] [63] [64] [65] High sodium intake is associated with a greater risk of stroke, total cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. [2] [60] A reduction in sodium intake by 1,000 mg per day may reduce cardiovascular disease by about 30 percent. [1] [3] In adults and children with no acute illness, a decrease in the intake of sodium from the typical high levels reduces blood pressure. [64] [66] A low sodium diet results in a greater improvement in blood pressure in people with hypertension. [67] [68]

The World Health Organization recommends that adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium (which is contained in 5 g of salt) per day. [63] Guidelines by the United States recommend that people with hypertension, African Americans, and middle-aged and older adults should limit consumption to no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day and meet the potassium recommendation of 4,700 mg/day with a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. [3] [69]

While reduction of sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day is recommended by developed countries, [3] one review recommended that sodium intake be reduced to at least 1,200 mg (contained in 3 g of salt) per day, as a further reduction in salt intake the greater the fall in systolic blood pressure for all age groups and ethinicities. [64] Another review indicated that there is inconsistent/insufficient evidence to conclude that reducing sodium intake to lower than 2,300 mg per day is either beneficial or harmful. [70]

More recent evidence is showing a much more complicated relationship between salt and cardiovascular disease. According to a systematic review of multiple large studies, "mortality caused by levels of salt the association between sodium consumption and cardiovascular disease or mortality is U-shaped, with increased risk at both high and low sodium intake" [71] The findings showed that increased mortality from excessive salt intake was primarily associated with individuals with hypertension. The levels of increased mortality among those with restricted salt intake appeared to be similar regardless of blood pressure. This evidence shows that while those with hypertension should primarily focus on reducing sodium to recommended levels, all groups should seek to maintain a healthy level of sodium intake of between 4 and 5 grams a day. [71]

One of the two most prominent dietary risks for disability in the world is eating too much sodium. [72]

Non-dietary uses

Only about 6% of the salt manufactured in the world is used in food. Of the remainder, 12% is used in water conditioning processes, 8% goes for de-icing highways and 6% is used in agriculture. The rest (68%) is used for manufacturing and other industrial processes, [73] and sodium chloride is one of the largest inorganic raw materials used by volume. Its major chemical products are caustic soda and chlorine, which are separated by the electrolysis of a pure brine solution. These are used in the manufacture of PVC, plastics, paper pulp and many other inorganic and organic compounds. Salt is also used as a flux in the production of aluminium. For this purpose, a layer of melted salt floats on top of the molten metal and removes iron and other metal contaminants. It is also used in the manufacture of soaps and glycerine, where it is added to the vat to precipitate out the saponified products. As an emulsifier, salt is used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber, and another use is in the firing of pottery, when salt added to the furnace vaporises before condensing onto the surface of the ceramic material, forming a strong glaze. [74]

When drilling through loose materials such as sand or gravel, salt may be added to the drilling fluid to provide a stable "wall" to prevent the hole collapsing. There are many other processes in which salt is involved. These include its use as a mordant in textile dying, to regenerate resins in water softening, for the tanning of hides, the preservation of meat and fish and the canning of meat and vegetables. [74] [75] [76]


Sea salt evaporation pond at Walvis Bay. Halophile organisms impart a red colour Sea salt, evaporation pond Walvis Bay (2014).jpg
Sea salt evaporation pond at Walvis Bay. Halophile organisms impart a red colour

Food-grade salt accounts for only a small part of salt production in industrialized countries (7% in Europe), [77] although worldwide, food uses account for 17.5% of total production. [78]

In 2018, total world production of salt was 300 million tonnes, the top six producers being China (68 million), the United States (42 million), India (29 million), Germany (13 million), Canada (13 million) and Australia (12 million). [79]

Bo Kluea 01.jpg
Brine from salt wells is boiled to produce salt at Bo Kluea, Nan Province, Thailand
Piles of Salt Salar de Uyuni Bolivia Luca Galuzzi 2006 a.jpg
Salt mounds in Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The manufacture of salt is one of the oldest chemical industries. [80] A major source of salt is seawater, which has a salinity of approximately 3.5%. This means that there are about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of dissolved salts, predominantly sodium (Na+
) and chloride (Cl
) ions, per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of water. [81] The world's oceans are a virtually inexhaustible source of salt, and this abundance of supply means that reserves have not been calculated. [75] The evaporation of seawater is the production method of choice in marine countries with high evaporation and low precipitation rates. Salt evaporation ponds are filled from the ocean and salt crystals can be harvested as the water dries up. Sometimes these ponds have vivid colours, as some species of algae and other micro-organisms thrive in conditions of high salinity. [82]

Elsewhere, salt is extracted from the vast sedimentary deposits which have been laid down over the millennia from the evaporation of seas and lakes. These are either mined directly, producing rock salt, or are extracted in solution by pumping water into the deposit. In either case, the salt may be purified by mechanical evaporation of brine. Traditionally, this was done in shallow open pans which were heated to increase the rate of evaporation. More recently, the process is performed in pans under vacuum. [76] The raw salt is refined to purify it and improve its storage and handling characteristics. This usually involves recrystallization during which a brine solution is treated with chemicals that precipitate most impurities (largely magnesium and calcium salts). Multiple stages of evaporation are then used to collect pure sodium chloride crystals, which are kiln-dried. [83] Some salt is produced using the Alberger process, which involves vacuum pan evaporation combined with the seeding of the solution with cubic crystals, and produces a grainy-type flake. [84] The Ayoreo, an indigenous group from the Paraguayan Chaco, obtain their salt from the ash produced by burning the timber of the Indian salt tree (Maytenus vitis-idaea) and other trees. [85]

One of the largest salt mining operations in the world is at the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. The mine has nineteen storeys, eleven of which are underground, and 400 km (250 mi) of passages. The salt is dug out by the room and pillar method, where about half the material is left in place to support the upper levels. Extraction of Himalayan salt is expected to last 350 years at the present rate of extraction of around 385,000 tons per annum. [86]

In religion

Bread and salt at a Russian wedding ceremony Russian bread and salt.jpg
Bread and salt at a Russian wedding ceremony

Salt has long held an important place in religion and culture. At the time of Brahmanic sacrifices, in Hittite rituals and during festivals held by Semites and Greeks at the time of the new moon, salt was thrown into a fire where it produced crackling noises. [87] The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans invoked their gods with offerings of salt and water and some people think this to be the origin of Holy Water in the Christian faith. [88] In Aztec mythology, Huixtocihuatl was a fertility goddess who presided over salt and salt water. [89]

Salt is considered to be a very auspicious substance in Hinduism and is used in particular religious ceremonies like house-warmings and weddings. [90] In Jainism, devotees lay an offering of raw rice with a pinch of salt before a deity to signify their devotion and salt is sprinkled on a person's cremated remains before the ashes are buried. [91] Salt is believed to ward off evil spirits in Mahayana Buddhist tradition, and when returning home from a funeral, a pinch of salt is thrown over the left shoulder as this prevents evil spirits from entering the house. [92] In Shinto, Shio( , lit. "salt") is used for ritual purification of locations and people (harae, specifically shubatsu), and small piles of salt are placed in dishes by the entrance of establishments for the two-fold purposes of warding off evil and attracting patrons. [93]

In the Hebrew Bible, there are thirty-five verses which mention salt. [94] One of these mentions Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:26) as they were destroyed. When the judge Abimelech destroyed the city of Shechem, he is said to have "sown salt on it," probably as a curse on anyone who would re-inhabit it (Judges 9:45). The Book of Job contains the first mention of salt as a condiment. "Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" (Job 6:6). [94] In the New Testament, six verses mention salt. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to his followers as the "salt of the earth". The apostle Paul also encouraged Christians to "let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6). [94] Salt is mandatory in the rite of the Tridentine Mass. [95] Salt is used in the third item (which includes an Exorcism) of the Celtic Consecration (cf. Gallican Rite) that is employed in the consecration of a church. Salt may be added to the water "where it is customary" in the Roman Catholic rite of Holy water. [95]

In Judaism, it is recommended to have either a salty bread or to add salt to the bread if this bread is unsalted when doing Kiddush for Shabbat. It is customary to spread some salt over the bread or to dip the bread in a little salt when passing the bread around the table after the Kiddush. [96] To preserve the covenant between their people and God, Jews dip the Sabbath bread in salt. [88]

In Wicca, salt is symbolic of the element Earth. It is also believed to cleanse an area of harmful or negative energies. A dish of salt and a dish of water are almost always present on an altar, and salt is used in a wide variety of rituals and ceremonies. [97]

Related Research Articles

Halogen group of elements that tend to be very reactive and form salts with metals and form acids when bonded to hydrogen, consisting of fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, astatine, and possibly tennessine

The halogens are a group in the periodic table consisting of five chemically related elements: Fluorine (F), Chlorine (Cl), Bromine (Br), Iodine (I), and Astatine (At). The artificially created element 117 may also be a halogen. In the modern IUPAC nomenclature, this group is known as group 17.

Potash salt mixtures that contain potassium in water-soluble form, mainly: halite, sylvite, carnallite, kieserite

Potash includes various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. The name derives from pot ash, which refers to plant ashes soaked in water in a pot, the primary means of manufacturing the product before the industrial era. The word potassium is derived from potash.

Brine A highly concentrated solution of a salt in water

Brine is a high-concentration solution of salt in water. In different contexts, brine may refer to salt solutions ranging from about 3.5% up to about 26%. Lower levels of concentration are called by different names: fresh water, brackish water, and saline water.

Fluoride is an inorganic, monatomic anion with the chemical formula F
, whose salts are typically white or colorless. Fluoride salts typically have distinctive bitter tastes, and are odorless. Its salts and minerals are important chemical reagents and industrial chemicals, mainly used in the production of hydrogen fluoride for fluorocarbons. Fluoride is classified as a weak base since it only partially associates in solution, but concentrated fluoride is corrosive and can attack the skin.

Magnesium chloride chemical compound

Magnesium chloride is the name for the chemical compound with the formula MgCl2 and its various hydrates MgCl2(H2O)x. These salts are typical ionic halides, being highly soluble in water. The hydrated magnesium chloride can be extracted from brine or sea water. In North America, magnesium chloride is produced primarily from Great Salt Lake brine. It is extracted in a similar process from the Dead Sea in the Jordan Valley. Magnesium chloride, as the natural mineral bischofite, is also extracted (by solution mining) out of ancient seabeds, for example, the Zechstein seabed in northwest Europe. Some magnesium chloride is made from solar evaporation of seawater. Anhydrous magnesium chloride is the principal precursor to magnesium metal, which is produced on a large scale. Hydrated magnesium chloride is the form most readily available.

Organic salt may refer to:

Potassium iodide chemical compound

Potassium iodide is a chemical compound, medication, and dietary supplement. As a medication it is used to treat hyperthyroidism, in radiation emergencies, and to protect the thyroid gland when certain types of radiopharmaceuticals are used. In the developing world it is also used to treat skin sporotrichosis and phycomycosis. As a supplement it is used in those who have low intake of iodine in the diet. It is given by mouth.

Iodised salt salt with iodide salts added

Iodised salt is table salt mixed with a minute amount of various salts of the element iodine. The ingestion of iodine prevents iodine deficiency. Worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Deficiency also causes thyroid gland problems, including "endemic goitre". In many countries, iodine deficiency is a major public health problem that can be cheaply addressed by purposely adding small amounts of iodine to the sodium chloride salt.

Water softening removal of metal cations in hard water

Water softening is the removal of calcium, magnesium, and certain other metal cations in hard water. The resulting soft water requires less soap for the same cleaning effort, as soap is not wasted bonding with calcium ions. Soft water also extends the lifetime of plumbing by reducing or eliminating scale build-up in pipes and fittings. Water softening is usually achieved using lime softening or ion-exchange resins but is increasingly being accomplished using nanofiltration or reverse osmosis membranes.

Iodine deficiency is a lack of the trace element iodine, an essential nutrient in the diet. It may result in a goiter, sometimes as an endemic goiter as well as cretinism due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism, which results in developmental delays and other health problems. Iodine deficiency is an important public health issue as it is a preventable cause of intellectual disability.

Salt substitute low-sodium table salt alternative

Salt substitutes are low-sodium table salt alternatives marketed to circumvent the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease associated with a high intake of sodium chloride while maintaining a similar taste. They usually contain mostly potassium chloride, whose toxicity is approximately equal to that of table salt in a healthy person. Potassium lactate may also be used to reduce sodium levels in food products. It is commonly used in meat and poultry products. The recommended daily allowance of potassium is higher than that for sodium, yet a typical person consumes less potassium than sodium in a given day. Seaweed granules are also marketed as alternatives to salt.

Cured fish fish treated by curing to reduce spoilage

Cured fish refers to fish which has been cured by subjecting it to fermentation, pickling, smoking, or some combination of these before it is eaten. These food preservation processes can include adding salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar, can involve smoking and flavoring the fish, and may include cooking it. The earliest form of curing fish was dehydration. Other methods, such as smoking fish or salt-curing also go back for thousands of years. The term "cure" is derived from the Latin curare, meaning to take care of. It was first recorded in reference to fish in 1743.

Iodine deficiency is a widespread problem in western, southern and eastern parts of China, as their iodized salt intake level is much lower than the average national level. Iodine deficiency is a range of disorders that affect many different populations. It is estimated that IDDs affect between 800 million and 2 billion people worldwide; countries have spent millions of dollars in implementing iodized salt as a means to counteract the iodine deficiencies prevalent today. With China accounting for "40% of the total population", it bears a large portion of those who are iodine deficient.

A low sodium diet is a diet that includes no more than 1,500 to 2,400 mg of sodium per day.

Salt and cardiovascular disease

Salt consumption has been intensely studied for its role in human physiology and impact on human health. In particular, excessive dietary salt consumption over an extended period of time has been associated with hypertension and cardiovascular disease, in addition to other adverse health effects.

Health effects of salt

The health effects of salt are the conditions associated with the consumption of either too much or too little salt. Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl) and is used in food for both preservation and flavor. Sodium ions are needed in small quantities by most living things, as are chloride ions. Salt is involved in regulating the water content of the body. The sodium ion itself is used for electrical signaling in the nervous system.

Dairy salt

Dairy salt is a salt product used in the preparation of butter and cheese products that serves to add flavor and act as a food preservative. Dairy salt can vary in terms of quality and purity, with purer varieties being the most desirable for use in foods. Dairy salt has been used since at least the 1890s in England and the United States. In butter preparation, it serves to retain moisture, while in cheeses, it tends to reduce water content and slow the ripening process.


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