What is salt?
Salt is made up of two things – sodium and chloride. It is mined out of specialized ocean pools, out of rocks that lie below the earth’s surface and is even skimmed off the top of naturally-occurring pools in France (although this is a highly coveted, very expensive form of salt.)
Because of its purpose in preserving food and its use in the development of many textiles and machinery (such as pottery and removing ice off of roads) its history marks it as being so esteemed that it was traded and valued more than gold.
What do we need from it?
Aside from adding flavour to many meals, both dinner recipes and baking recipes, the sodium in salt is crucial in many of the body’s bio mechanical pathways which helps in nerve transmission. Sodium is also important for the maintenance of blood pressure while chloride is important for the maintenance of blood volume and the PH balance of body fluids.
Where is salt found in our diets?
About 10% of salt is found naturally in our diets, with over 75% being found in processed foods. Processed foods use high salt content in order to preserve the food and enhance the flavour. It’s not always easy to taste the added salt content in these foods, and they are:
- Sandwich meats / cold meats,
- Hard cheeses,
- Ready-made microwave-type meals,
- Tinned foods.
And many other processed foods – even sweets. The salt that you add into your meals for taste adds another 20% of your salt intake to your diet.
Do we REALLY need salt?
The simple fact of the matter is that we do need salt. As mentioned before, sodium and chloride are important for a variety of factors including maintenance of blood pressure and hydration – making it important for its role in replacing lost fluids. Because excess salt consumption is linked to hypertension, osteoporosis and some cancers, strict limitations on intake are important.
How much salt should I ingest per day?
There is no set answer for this, but the facts state that our bodies do lose sodium throughout the day due to sweating. However, only one to two teaspoons of salt is needed in our diets per day to maintain that balance of sodium and chloride.
Therefore, if you are ingesting salt in your meals, you probably only need to add a pinch to your food once cooked – remember that salt is usually added during cooking for flavour. Don’t forget to check the sodium content of packaged foods to be aware of just how much salt you are ingesting each day.