Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Salt of the Earth

A while back, a friend sent me a link to the Salt of the Month Club … but alas, it turned out to be a fake from The Onion. Still, I check the link every so often, just in case it's now for real.

There easily could be a salt of the month club. Gourmet shops such as Chapel Hill’s A Southern Season and specialty Web sites such as Saltworks feature an unbelievable array of salts. There’s grey salt, black salt, pink salt ... salt from Hawaii; salt from the Himalayas. Smoked salt, salt with truffles, salt with green tea.

The publishing world is aware of the trend. Yesterday, Cassandra passed along an article from the June 2007 issue of Natural Health magazine, with ideas for creating seasoned salts by blending, infusing, smoking or roasting salt with other flavoring agents.

And in its March 2007 issue, Cooking Light magazine did an article focused on cooking with salt. The recipe for Sweet and Salty Peanut Chocolate Chunk Cookies still haunts me. Luckily, it’s available online here.

It’s especially interesting that these health-conscious magazines are featuring articles on salt, since the seasoning has a less savory side – its effect on blood pressure.

A USDA report on salt intake points out that "Over 30 years of scientific evidence shows that a diet containing more than 6 grams of salt per day (2,400 milligrams of sodium – the amount in a little more than a teaspoon of salt) is associated with elevated blood pressure. Increased blood pressure can lead to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease." Cooking Light has more information about salt and health here.

This is serious - enough to give even a dedicated salt vampire like me pause.

On the other hand, these recent magazine articles focus on using salt very consciously – adding a bit of very flavorful salt at the point where it will have the most impact. That way less can be used to achieve a satisfying flavor.

But this may not make a large difference. One of the USDA’s most eye-opening statistics is that only about 20 percent of the average person’s sodium intake comes from salt added at the table. About 75 percent comes from processed foods.

So keeping an eye on sodium content when you’re buying such things as frozen entrees and bottled salad dressings is important. You may also wish to check nutritional information for restaurant items, if it is available. And, of course, preparing as much of your own food as possible at home from fresh, healthy ingredients can also help.

How about you, readers? How concerned are you about sodium intake, and what, if anything do you do to try to minimize it?

And, if you're like me and just can't get enough salty goodness, check out the Salt Institute's page of recipe links. They're not all vegetarian, but some are. Especially noteworthy are the several recipes for preserved lemons -- Those things are saltier than salt! Mmmm.


At 5/22/2007 7:57 PM, Blogger Jul said...

My normal diet contains very little processed food - it's a conscious choice designed to keep non-foods (chemicals and other additives) and other unhealthy things (such as high-fructose corn syrup) out of my body. It's nice to think this choice is probably great for my sodium levels, too. :)

At 5/23/2007 3:42 PM, Blogger Julie said...

That's the beauty of healthy lifestyle choices - when you do something for one reason, you're likely to be getting other benefits as well.


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