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Salt: Taste the Differences!

17 March

Rock Salt

Way back when my dad was a high school athlete, his coaches and trainers would give him and his teammates salt tablets before games or practices, especially on hot days.

Way back when I was a kid, my grandma called it the Killer, and banished it from her table.

Salt. We use it and we love it (some of us more than others), and it can be confusing to know if we should. There’s a lot of conflicting evidence out there about what too much salt does (or doesn’t do) to our bodies, as well as conflicting recommendations for how much sodium each day is enough, too much, not enough. If you have health issues that keep you under the watchful eye of a health care practitioner, always check in with her or him.

But the easy answer to the question of “how much salt is ok?” is that by eating a Real Foods diet and using discretionary salt (the type you sprinkle on yourself while cooking or at the table), the average person will have a perfectly fine amount of salt in their diet and body. With Real Foods, most of your sodium will come from the vegetables, meat and grains you eat.
Sea Salt Farmers, Thailand

Salt is sodium chloride, which is, amazingly, made up of sodium and chloride (scientists made it easy for us with that name!). Sodium and chloride are electrolytes, and play important roles in key body functions.

• Sodium is found in extracellular fluid, like blood and lymph, and works to maintain the plasma volume level, thus keeping body fluids balanced.
• Balanced body fluids mean a healthy and efficient cardiovascular system.
• Sodium and chloride work together for neurological function, enabling neurons to signal to each other.
• Chloride is a big part of gastric juice (aka hydrochloric acid), which makes it essential for digestion.
• Sodium enables the low-level electrical pulses that are necessary for a neuron impulse to move a muscle.
• Within muscle tissue, sodium signals for a flow of other electrolytes to enter the muscle, and this causes muscle contraction.

We eat salt because we lose this important nutrient when we sweat, urinate and cry, and eating it helps to balance our bodies.

Processed foods are a huge part of the high-sodium problem: salt is a preservative but, more importantly to the factories pumping out that slop-disguised-as-food, it’s a flavor enhancer – it’s kind of magical what a bit of salt will do for bland foods (and if you don’t believe me, try making oatmeal without the pinch of salt, you can taste the difference immediately!).

When cooking, use salt to coax out the flavor of foods (like when adding salt to pasta water), to cut the bitter taste of some greens, and to bring extra life to legumes. Adding salt to food that’s cooking also draws out the food’s own moisture, further enhancing the overall flavor of a dish.

There are lots of salt options out there. Iodized table salt is highly processed, sometimes bleached, and stripped of its trace minerals, but most sea salt or “Real” salt (from the salt plains left after prehistoric oceans) still contain trace minerals that are an added bonus for your body. The exotic options that are newly available to us have different flavors and textures, so feel free to try them and play!
Black Turkish Pyramid Finshing Salt
Most importantly, don’t rely only on salt to make your food taste good! There are tons of herbs and spices, both fresh and dried, that will make your mouth sing (or cry or laugh or sigh or dream or write a poem), don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative (see my previous post on bulk bin spices for extra courage.)

And if you’re still unsure, check out our culinary nutritionist, Melissa Martland-Kile’s, Tools of the Trade class this week: Aromatics and Spices: Creating Flavor Profiles

Tasty Eating!

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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2 Responses to “Salt: Taste the Differences!”

  1. October 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally
    I have found something that helped me. Thanks!

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