Healthier, Better Salt
By Lia Threat
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It is peak summertime which means cookouts, barbeques, and crawfish boils. The commonality at these gatherings is that an abundance of foods seasoned with plenty of spices, condiments, seasonings, chips, and processed foods are served. Because salt is high in processed foods and sauces and used liberally on sides like fries, most people will likely be consuming far more than the daily recommended dose of 2,400 mg/day.
Salt is a seasoning utilized throughout the world in nearly every culture and is essential to cooking and health. Salt enhances the flavor of foods and helps maintain the vital mineral electrolyte balance in our bodies. In addition, the chemical composition of sodium chloride (NaCl) helps maintain a delicate balance of potassium levels in the body.
In cooking, salt is a flavor enhancer that releases the flavor of other foods in the dish while balancing bitter, sweet, and salty notes.
A good rule of thumb is to salt at the beginning, taste towards the middle of cooking before serving, and adjust accordingly. In recent years, tastes have changed, and health trends have inspired a shift that has deterred some from eating table salt or avoiding it altogether. However, there is no need to omit all salt completely unless medically necessary.
There are significant differences between table salt and unaltered forms of naturally occurring salts. Table salt is a culinary version of Sodium Chloride. It is bleached and stripped of most of its nutritional properties, with chemicals added to prevent caking and iodine.
If you have switched to eating pink Himalayan, sea salt, or other versions, you will likely be missing out on iodine, an essential mineral. For a more natural source of salt and iodine, one may try rich sources of seaweed, especially dulse and wakame, kelp, or add a naturally salty vegetable such as celery. Seafood and shellfish such as shrimp are also rich sources of iodine.
Try different varieties of salt for the highest nutrient content and textural interest. Along with enhancing flavor, salts can have varying moisture content, be infused with herbs and spices, and incorporate other elements such as clay or charcoal.
Rock salts such as Kosher, Himalayan, and black salt are sourced from rock within the earth. Due to their unique location, these salts are mineral-rich with variations in color and distinct flavors. These minerals can serve as natural electrolytes to the body that one may lose through sweating.
Try playing with a new seasoned salt for your next get-together. Stay cool and enjoy the rest of these summer days!