Salt. It’s on my mind in a different way since visiting Italy and hearing about its history and value back in the day. It’s also been on my mind pretty much the whole time I’ve been a dietitian for obvious reasons.
Before you assume you already know what this is about, read on, dear friends, as I attempt to blow your mind. I’ve linked to resources within this post (like I kind of always do so you can dig in as you wish) because it’s actually a really cool, multifaceted story. Of course, it’s important to consider your personal health history and chat with your doctor and a dietitian who can see your labs and really spend the time you need to on this topic. In the meantime, I think you’ll find this as fascinating as I do.
Back in the days before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food. Without food, we die, so you can imagine why salt was as valued as gold.
Salt is needed by the body. (well, actually, it’s the sodium in the salt that we’re usually talking about…)
The word salary actually comes from salt. You like a paycheck? Read more about this one for sure.
You sort of really need salt to bake bread and make cheese. It does good stuff in there – it’s not in there to make you mad or for no reason. This is why I like to discuss portion size and looking at “all” the places we get salt in our diet so we can take it out where it doesn’t serve as much of a functional purpose. Of course lower sodium versions are available.
Check out the Farmer’s Almanac story about uses for salt in the home.
Some people may have forgotten the importance of iodine (goiter as an example). Iodine is needed by the body/brain. It’s not super present in our meals, as it’s in seaweed, dairy, seafood and other foods in varying amounts and/or that we aren’t necessarily eating regularly or enough of. It was added to salt to help address goiter (abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland). Then some people started eating too much salt, and conversation shifted away from the history and full story.
Context is everything. Portions are important. If salt is on your mind, start at the beginning of the story. What is the function of salt in the food you are eating? Focus on what role it may be playing in foods you choose, and reduce salt that is truly unnecessary. I think you’ll find it makes it easier to manage, which is probably something you were thinking about in the first place.
Read how table salt is made (salt association)
Read about Himalayan pink salt sustainability (branded)
Read Cook’s Illustrated overview of Salt
Read about salt and food safety/food preservation
Read about the role of salt in baking from the American Association of Cereal Chemists
It’s fun to get back to the “why” of things. Stay tuned for another “why” soon.
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