Is salt good for you? I’m sure many of us remember the story from our school days about the king and his three daughters, when asked how much they loved him, two showered him with praise while the third said she loved him like salt. Enraged that she compared him to just salt, he banished her from the kingdom. She arranged for salt to be taken out of all of his cooking, the food tasted bland and terrible then he realised what she meant. That’s the short version but it shows how important salt is to our food and taste. But is all salt good for us? Lets see.
Types of salt
All salt we use has the same basic chemical name, sodium chloride, but not all salt we see on the shelves is the same. The most well known and widely used is table salt, followed by sea salt and then there’s the lesser known Himalayan pink salt or rock salt. Table salt is indeed salt (ie sodium Chloride) but is much more refined. It has had all of the valuable minerals stripped from it during processing and various chemicals added to stop clumping and improve the flow, these additives can include Ferrocyanide, talc, and silica aluminate.
Sea salt is a much more natural form that’s gone through far less processing and hasn’t got the added chemicals. It has got some naturally occurring minerals, the number and type depending on where the sea salt was harvested. Then we come to rock salt, a common version is called Himalayan pink salt which is sourced in Himalayan mountain rock. It’s called a full-spectrum salt meaning that it has over 80 essential minerals contained within it. This is by far, a much better option if you want to add salt to cooking or to your food.
How much do we need?
We’re told that too much salt is bad for us and that’s very true, small amounts though are very beneficial to our health. Salt is required throughout our body, from assisting thyroid health to cell health, brain health, and adequate metabolic functioning. The problem though is the amount of salt that’s added to our processed/refined/packaged foods. Salt is required to improve taste, and coupled with flavour enhancers such a Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), can begin to harm our overall health through raised blood pressure and its associated problems such as heart disease and strokes. Too much salt can also cause water retention and in one 2010 study, it was observed that too much salt can also negatively affect cognitive functioning.
On average, adults in the UK consume around 8.1g of salt per day, this doesn’t sound like a huge amount but advice limits our intake to just 6g per day. So we’re consuming 33% more salt that the maximum advised limit! That’s a very worrying trend and it’s only getting worse as we eat more fast food, packaged meals, and restaurant/take-out meals.
Reducing our intake
So what can we do to reduce our intake and improve our health? In my opinion, the biggest thing you can do, not just to reduce your salt intake but to improve your overall health, is to cook more meals from scratch instead of using the “convenient” ready-meals. That way you have absolute control of how much salt (if any) is going into your meal.
Another way of reducing your salt intake is to use more herbs and spices. These can take a meal from bland to fantastic in moments! Adding fresh/dried herbs and spices when cooking can make a meal taste wonderful and fill the kitchen with the most amazing smells. I LOVE adding herbs spices to meals, even those I don’t cook like beautiful salads. You will also find that many fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring salt and that is usually enough to give you that lovely taste as well as the associated health benefits that go with correct salt intake levels, it just requires acclimatising of your taste buds to the new food regime, something that can happen in as little as 2 weeks.
So enjoy your salt but choose wisely and use sparingly.