A Shake of Salt
Written by Julie Meek – Dietitian and Nutritionist
As a nation, our love for cooking shows, including celebrity chefs and plain old everyday people is ever growing. Amidst all the competition and fanfare, have you noticed that these chef’s and their students are very liberal with adding salt to their dishes? A bit of salt here, a bit of salt there…
The problem here of course, is that the audience gets the impression that throwing salt on everything is perfectly fine. Salt can add a particular flavor to food but frequent and excessive use can certainly have a negative impact on blood pressure, especially for those with existing hypertension.
Your taste buds get used to the taste of salt and then food without it seems to have no flavor. In reality, after a short period of not adding salt, your food starts to taste how it should and real flavours start to emerge out of the saltiness. So many everyday foods that we eat already have salt added, with cereal, bread and cheese being perfect examples.
Technically, salt is a chemical compound of sodium and chlorine and is called sodium chloride. Rock and sea salt are almost entirely sodium chloride with only traces of other minerals.
Iodised salt is intended as a supplement for people whose diet is deficient in iodine. This is important because adequate iodine is essential for the brain development of unborn babies, infants and young children. Iodine is only found in small quantities in food and iodised salt is the richest source available.
Iodine aside, all types of salt whether they be rock, pink or from the very depths of the Dead Sea to the highest mountain, all contain the same quantity of sodium chloride and are therefore all equal in terms of the quantity of salt they contain. Without any miraculous health benefits.
What’s the problem with eating too much salt?
Research has shown that too much salt is linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when blood vessels harden leading to a build-up of pressure. It increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke and can lead to problems in other parts of the body such as the eyes and kidneys.
To reduce your intake of salt try the following:
- Be mindful that stock (both liquid and powder) and many sauces and gravies are high in salt, so minimize the use of these in cooking
- Don’t add salt to cooking
- Choose low or reduced salt products in the supermarket
- Enjoy a diet rich in fruit and vegetables as they are naturally very low in salt
- Choose fresh, rather than packaged meats. Fresh meat, chicken, pork and lamb contain natural sodium but much less than packaged varieties such as ham, bacon and other processed sandwich meats
- Look out for products that don’t necessarily taste salty but have a significant salt content, cereal being a perfect example.
- Be careful of making salty choices in café’s and restaurants. Salt is not something that is usually listed or highlighted, but you can ask the waiter or waitress to serve a dish without added salt.
- Take-away and snack foods are often extremely high in salt, so its best to limit your consumption of these.
- Use fresh herbs and spices to enhance the flavour of your food rather than salty additives
The taste for salt CAN be changed.
It will take around 4-6 weeks for your taste buds to adapt but they will and once this happens everything will taste too salty!
Persist and your body will thank you.