Salt is an age-old compound that we humans have used for centuries in, on, and for food preservation. It comes in many different forms, colors, and grains.
Salt, or sodium, is an element that is found naturally on the Earth. It is dissolved in the oceans and seas around the world and is what gives it that salty taste. That is also the reason you can’t live off seawater; there is just too much salt in that water to live on. When you drink it, it actually pulls water from your cells to balance the water:salt ratio and dehydrates you.
But how do we get salt to our table? Thankfully the pure form of sodium is not super common. Sodium by itself is highly reactive to both air and water. The salt that we get from the seas and from inside the Earth is actually sodium chloride. It has a crystalline structure which can be seen on salt with a coarser grain.
Salt has been used by humans for as far back as we have had civilization. It has been pivotal to the curing of foods for preservation and has even been used as currency. That’s how important it was way back in the day.
These days, we mostly use it to enhance the taste of food. Salt helps bring out the salty and sweet of foods while suppressing some of the bitterness.
Salt also comes in many different varieties. These can range from the different grains of the salt, fine to coarse, to the different colors such as pink, black, brown and while. The grain of the salt is determined on how much it is ground up.
Some salt grinders have a gauge that allows you to change the grain of the salt that you want on your food. The finer the grain, the more evenly dispersed it will be over solid food, and the quicker it will be dissolved into liquid food. The opposite is also true. The more coarse you grind, the chunkier it will be and the longer it takes to dissolve.
The different colors are based on where the salt is gotten from and what extra minerals are in the salt. White salt is the “pure” form, and doesn’t have any added minerals. This is jsut like your basic table salt. Pink salt, for example comes from close to the Himalayans and has trace amounts of magnesium, potassium and calcium. Black salt on the other hand is mined in different areas around the world that are near volcanoes. As such they have some volcanic ash in them that gives the black color.
To a more refined palate, each salt tastes very different. The black salt for example gives a smokiness to food that it is put on.
Salt is so important to our diet as people. We literally could not live without it. Our body uses salt to balance the fluids in our body. The proper amount also helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure. It also is essential from proper nerve and muscle function.
For example, if you consume too much salt, you might find that the next morning your fingers feel a little swollen and hard to bend. This is from the water retention that your body is doing because of the extra salt in it. Your body is trying to balance out the salt it has by holding on to water.
We really don’t need much salt in our diet to live. Our body needs about 50mg of salt a day to live and the CDC recommends that we consume less that 2,300mg a day to remain healthy. For each body it will be different, and will also depend on activity and climate.
So where does all this salt come from if it is such a big problem? Some salt comes from very obviously places such as fast food, processed food, and adding table salt. Then some comes from some more sneaky places like milk, cheese, canned soup, pizza, and chicken nuggets. Just go and read some of your nutrition labels in your fridge or panty. You’ll be shocked by what has salt in it.
If you really did go look at the nutrition label, you might have glanced up at the serving size. That popcorn that you snack on while watching some TV or as a healthy snack, it has salt in it for sure, and it might not seem like very much. Let’s say it has 200 mg of sodium. Not that bad right? But if you look up at the servings per bag, that’s where tehy get you. There are 2.5 servings in that bag. If you consume that whole bag as a snack, you just ate 500mg of salt. That is just from one snack
While salt is essential for you to live, there is such thing as too much. Going over the suggested amount can lead to water retention and a rise in blood pressure in the short term. Log-term high use can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even death. You don’t to cut it out entirely, but you do want to watch how much you eat.
How much you eat comes from both salt you add while cooking or at the table, and from the foods you consume from your fridge and pantry. All store bought foods, have a nutritional label, so look at them to see how much salt you are really consuming. If you are worried it is too much, talk to you doctor. They will be able to help you figure out if it is too much and you can discuss options with them.
Have an opinion or something to add? Please comment below and let me know! 🙂
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