Salt is one of the most important preservatives and commodities in human history. Ancient Romans were often paid in salt (“salary”), Greek slave-traders bartered with salt (“he’s not worth his salt”), and biblical covenants were often sealed with salt, the origin of “salvation.” Further, you may have heard that Jesus referred to his disciples as “the salt of the earth”? We still use that phrase for honest, hardworking people.
Are you “worth your salt”? Are you among “the salt of the earth”? These are compliments, my friend, which should be your first clue about salt, one of the most significant components of our health and history. So why do we hear so much about high blood pressure, water retention, and limiting our salt intake? Why do we feel guilty every time we reach for the salt shaker?
As with so many other foods, salt (or “spice” as my children call it) is misunderstood at best, and flat-out shunned at worst. I can hardly think of something sadder than someone sprinkling Lawry’s low-sodium seasoning on their baked potato, so just in case you are one of those people, I’ve decided to stage an intervention and encourage you to let salt back into your life.
I’m not talking about getting crazy with the Morton’s table salt here, I’m referring to sea salt. Table salt has been highly processed and bleached, with important minerals removed and sold to vitamin manufacturers, while sugar, iodine, and calcium silicate (an anti-caking agent used in making bricks, insulation, and roads) are added. Hey Morton: Give us back our minerals! (Maybe a catchier slogan?)
I used to think sea salt was just a fancy, expensive salt for the likes of Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Contessa, not for plain folk such as myself. Apparently Food Network has been onto something, however, because sea salt is less processed than table salt, contains over 60 important trace minerals, has no additives, and is harvested from the sea (as I believe its name implies) by a simpler method that’s easier on the environment. Salt is actually — gasp–good for you! Consuming sufficient amounts of salt helps control blood sugar levels, is a natural antihistamine, can stop your sore throat in its tracks (gargle salt water), maintains the pH balance in our stomachs, improves sleep quality, encourages a healthy thyroid and metabolism, and balances our hormones (so maybe that’s why we’re scrounging for salty snacks around that time of the month, ladies?). So salt away — but make sure you’re not sprinkling on a piece of pizza, potato chips, or a freshly-microwaved veggie burger!
The worst offenders for high sodium are prepared, prepackaged foods, salad dressings, bouillon cubes, cheese, cured meats and, of course, fast food items. But be careful — just because something is labeled “low sodium” does not mean you should load up your cart, because it’s probably full of other additives to make it palatable.
We’re human. We love–and need –salt; it’s essential for optimal health. Just accept that and welcome salt back onto your plate (and palate) in its natural form — not hidden in processed foods.