The Pros and Cons of Eating Salt

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The Pros and Cons of Eating Salt
cooking-with-salt

Yesterday Salt was a Hero

‘Yesterday’ salt was beneficial for you, and the general cure-all for those with ailments.

Today, salt is the enemy; to be avoided at all costs; the root of all illnesses.

Tomorrow, who knows? But before you all become discombobulated (yes, it is a real word and means baffled, confused, disoriented); let me set you straight on this subject.

To salt, or not to salt – that is the question!

Ancient References to Salt

There are salt mines in various countries, and they are not derelict, they are being mined and are very productive – because the world needs salt in a big way. In the Bible, we read that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt; then, we read on and learn that Jesus told his disciples that they were “the salt of the earth,” meaning that they were people who were decent and did good things. They also say “he’s worth his salt” about an honest, moral, virtuous person. So, from this, we get that salt is a good thing.

What Is Salt?

There are various types of salt. One variety contains trace amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and iodine, all added to table salt. *The essential minerals were acting as the vital electrolytes in the body that are important for fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle function.

As you all have probably realized, when you get terrible muscle cramps in the legs, arms, stomach, or other body parts, it’s usually caused by either insufficient salt in your system or an imbalance of electrolytes. Both are harmful, and the result is painful – yet it’s a simple matter to put right.

Salt the Cure-All

In the past, when a person was ill, they would take extra salt because it was ‘a well-known fact’ by all the mothers and ‘old wives’ that ‘salt would fix the problem’ – and it often did!

That was during, and for many years after, the Second World War. Of course, you have to take into account that everyone in the world was starving (just as the Coronavirus became a pandemic affect the world – naturally similar can be said regarding World War II and starvation.).

Salt was a hero during the 20th century. There was very little food available; people ate what they could get – even foods they would never normally eat; and salt became a rarity and a luxury. If you had a cramp – take salt; if you were sweating – take salt; if you had a headache – take salt and so on.

The Black Market

The Black Market (things sold under the table that cost a fortune but were available to the right person for the right price) made a killing with chocolates, nylon stockings, firearms, excellent cuts of meat and fish, and, salt. There were food coupons for the bare essentials, but they couldn’t keep a person adequately fed and healthy.

Salt Is The Enemy

Nowadays, in the 21st century, salt is the enemy and is perceived as the culprit that makes people ill and stops them from recovering. As none of us are Doctors, let’s find the facts and become conversant with some salty solutions.

They say that if you take in too much salt, it will give you high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease – you could even have a stroke. How much salt should we have? It’s recommended that adults shouldn’t eat more than 6g of salt a day – about one teaspoon. (Children and babies have different requirements and needs, and it’s best to check with a doctor if you need that information.)

To Explain

To explain the dangers of excess salt: it causes the extra water that is stored in your body to raise your blood pressure. Therefore, the more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure becomes. Of course, the higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys, and brain. This situation, unchecked, will lead to heart attack, stroke, dementia, and kidney disease.

One teaspoon a day, you tell yourself, while thinking that’s a tiny amount and you’re sure you need more. Maybe you should stop and realize that by the time you’ve had breakfast and the day’s barely begun, you’ve already exceeded that one teaspoon of salt without noticing it.

Salt Is Everywhere

Salt is in the foods you eat and, if you then add canned foods, frozen pre-prepared meals, other frozen foods, shop-bought pies, etc. there is even more salt contain therein.

Did you know, for example, that breakfast cereals and even bread contain a lot of salt! Have a look at the foods that have a high salt content:

Achovies                  Bacon                       Cheese                     Gravy Granules

Ham                           Olives                         Pickles                        Prawns

Salami                       Salt Fish                     Soy Sauce                Salted and dry roasted nuts

Stock Cubes            Yeast Extract           Kippers                      Smoked fish and meat

This above might explain how you take in many more grams of salt that the one teaspoon by merely eating any of the above.

You should also be vigilant for the salt contained in the following food of which most are consumed daily:

Pasta Sauces           Pizza                           Ready Meals           Potato Crisps

Soups                         Sandwiches             Sausages                  Breakfast Cereals

Bread Products such as crumps, bagels, ciabatta

Tomato Ketchup, mayonnaise and various other sauces, and chutneys

Read The Labels

It’s essential to take a moment while shopping, to read the labels of the foodstuffs you intend to buy. You’ll be well surprised when you see how much salt is in that food.

When you read the labels, and you’re looking for the salt content, search for salt or sodium; and remember that sodium has different names. It is sometimes called monosodium glutamate (MSG, most common in Chinese food but found in many other types of food). There’s sodium citrate, there is also sodium alginate, plus sodium hydroxide, ending with sodium phosphate. These are the main offenders for which you’re looking.

Low Sodium

Don’t go looking for sodium content in any fresh fruit or vegetables – that’s not necessary. If they’re fresh, they won’t contain any secret ingredients that are harmful to you.

Try to Buy Low-Sodium Foods

If you’re unsure how to do this, then look for the following words on the labels:

‘Unsalted’ usually means there’s no sodium added so that food is safe to buy but be cautious because sodium might naturally exist in the diet.

Look for ‘sodium-free’ because that means one serving contains less than 5 mg of sodium.

Look for ‘low sodium’ because that means one serving contains 140 mg or less of sodium.

Then ‘reduced sodium’ means that there is 25% less sodium than the food has typically. This food has too much sodium.

Rather look instead for fresh or frozen veggies and low sodium versions of canned vegetables, soups, and other foods.

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Cutting Down on Salt

If your Doctor tells you to cut down on your salt intake, or even to stop adding salt or not cook with salt, your immediate reaction is to say you don’t take salt – think again.

Your dietary salt intake is already massively exceeding the safe salt limit. When you’re taking in such a large quantity of salt and still want to add it to your cooking and again to the food on your plate, you need to stop and realize it’s essential to cut back and stop self-salting to improve your health. It’s not a big ask, and remember, anyone can develop a new habit within one month; so, cutting back on salt will be much easier than you think.

Many Uses

  • We rely on salt a great deal, and it has many uses; we use it:
  • To put on slugs in the garden to kill them
  • To preserve our food
  • To flavor our food and make it taste better
  • For dying, bleaching, tanning, pottery, and soap
  • For a mouth rinse
  • For gargling to cure a sore throat
  • For putting on snow to lower the freezing point of the water so that you can walk or drive over it safely
  • For freshening shoes – any footwear – and make them smell better
  • For unclogging drains
  • For putting down sinks to clean them better and remove stains
  • For taking with tequila and lemon
  • For pickling vegetables
  • For rubbing into scored pork skin to get a good crackling when roasted
  • For putting on wounds – cuts and grazes as a form of anti-septic

Salt is mandatory and used in certain religious rites like exorcisms; and many religious ceremonies and rituals, which are performed both in the church and also in the homes of believers for specific rites at different times of the year.

The Salt Mines

There are some other quite interesting facts about salt, and the following will show you which country produces the most salt:

Country/Region 2012                             Salt Production (Metric Tonnes)
1 China                                      62,158,000
2 United States                                      40,200,000
3 India                                      24,500,000
4 Germany                                      19,021,295

The biggest salt mine in the world is found in Canada: Sifto Salt Mines in Ontario. Being the large salt mine in the world is quite a distinction. It is located 1800 feet under Lake Huron.

The Egyptians and History

Here are a few facts about the history of salt. The early hunters found the salt they needed in killing and eating meat. The first people to realize that you can use salt as a preservative were the Egyptians.

They weren’t very discriminating; nor did the only use salt for the preservation of food. They also used it to preserve Mummies who were packed to the gills with it.  Another exciting and strange fact to be added here is that when those Mummies were shipped down the river Nile as cargo, the Egyptians taxed them in the category of salted meat! Egyptians mostly obtained their salt from the marshes of the river Nile.

British History

While the first British towns like Middlewich and Norwich were associated with areas where salt working was a common practice. So, the British clustered around salt springs.

American History

In American history, we find that salt, during the Civil War, was a very precious commodity. They used it not only for eating but also for tanning leather, for dyeing clothing, and even for preserving troop rations.

We read that Confederate President Jefferson Davis cleverly offered exemption from military service for anyone willing to work on salt production on the coast. The only reliable source of salt in the South was the ocean – since inland production facilities were so valuable that they became targets of Union attacks.

Reading this, you realize just how valuable salt is and how it has influenced our lives way back in history right up to the present day.

The Right Balance

So now we know that salt is essential to our bodies. Too much or too little can cause us serious health problems so; we agree with Goldilocks that the amount of salt we take in has to be ‘just right.’

NB

*Electrolytes are basically made up of 4 components, which are:

Sodium, potassium, and chloride. These salts help to conduct electric currents in the body.

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