Salt – an important content of our food, can’t take excess or no one willing to take it in small quantities too! Of among all taste flavours, it’s the king which can really determine the taste of a dish. If salt is not added in sufficient quantities, we can’t recognize or identify other tastes or spices in a dish, if needed a little more or not. To a beginner in kitchen, it’s the same ingredient which gives him a lot of puzzles to solve. According to Kerala chefs of old times, if someone learns to add salt to olan (a vegetarian side dish) it can be said that he has become a chef. That shows the importance of salt even from the early days.

salt

What’s the role of sodium in a human body?

Sodium is an essential factor needed to perform many functions of our body. Sodium – 1.3 gram content of a normal human body plays an important role in retaining body water level and pH. It helps cells in the absorption of nutrients as well. We supply sodium to our body through the food we eat.

Let’s know salt a little bit

NaCl – the abundant content of sodium is found in common salt. When sodium combines with chlorine, sodium chloride, known as salt is formed. The salt in our dinning table is either obtained through mining or crystallized by evaporating sea water. Neglecting minute differences NaCl remains the same.

  • Crystal salt is not a refined one and it contains a lot of minerals.
  • Table salt contains iodine. It’s produced by treating salt with magnesium carbonate (lime).
  • A mixture of minerals and salt is known as black salt. It has a strong pungent smell, particularly sulphur. It’s used in Pakistan and India in chat masala and chutney.
  • 94% salt plus 6% sodium nitrate gives curing salt which is pink in colour. It’s used in the preservation of meat.
  • Ocean salt is either distilled from sea water or absorbed from it. It’s also known as celtic or grey salt. It also contains minerals in plenty.

What’s iodized salt?

Iodine is most necessary for the proper functioning of thyroid gland. Since iodine is found abundant in soil, through plants human beings also get its sufficient quantities. But now, fertilizers have changed the soil structure and very often iodine content in soil is comparatively low. It leads to deficiency of iodine in our body and it can be covered by giving iodine as supplements through salt.

Sea salt or any one of its substitutes doesn’t contain iodine. Yet sea fish and plants contain iodine in abundant. In one cup cow milk, 100 microgram iodine is found. For the development of brain, iodine is vital, particularly at the age of 3 to 5. According to World Health Organization, an adult needs 150 microgram iodine everyday. Pregnant ladies and feeding mothers need 200-300 microgram iodine.

How much needed?

When sodium in salt is supplied in excess to our body it causes many health problems. For a healthy person 2.4 gram salt is sufficient – says American Heart Association and National Health Institute. That means about 1 tea spoon salt. Above 6 gram salt a day is really dangerous.

It’s very difficult to calculate how much salt are we consuming everyday. But while consuming packet items, it can be calculated easily. On every packet label, the amount of sodium is noted. If it’s multiplied by 2.5, we can estimate the salt content in a packet of food. If a 100 gram packet contains 1.25 gram salt, avoid that food item.

Salt through natural food items

Salt is contained in meat, fruits and vegetables naturally. Body gets 70% salt mainly through our side dishes, soups, sauce and biscuits.

Salt is excess in packets

Pizza, pickles, chips, fried cashews, soft drinks, chutney, pappads – are the major carriers of extra salt. Avoid pickles as much as possible for your body health.

Salt and health

Excess salt gives high pressure which is related to heart diseases including heart attacks and strokes. Excess use of salt can damage your kidneys. If you decrease your salt intake, your high blood pressure will come down considerably. If you are a person above 40, reduce your salt consumption.

When is sodium needed in excess?

If you are suffering from dysentery or vomiting your sodium content in body may be low. Sweating can also cause sodium loss. Fasting can reduce sodium levels considerably. In these cases, you need to take healthy food with salt content. But avoid packet snacks and pickles. That’s the reason why while a patient is suffering from dysentery or vomiting, doctor suggests him to drink water containing salt in plenty.

Food less in sodium

Cereals like rice, maize and wheat, fruits, non-salted cashew nuts, sugar, honey, jam, brinjal, cabbage, cauli flower, cucumber, tomato, peas, lettuce, onion, potato, pumpkin, vinegar and pepper are common items.

Sodium rich food

Biscuit, pastry, white yolk, dried raisins, fish, meat, milk, cheese, salted butter, beet root, carrot, radish, spinach, pickles and snack packets.

We can reduce salt

  • Add ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chillies, shallots or onions as flavours instead of salt.
  • Lemon juice is a good substitute of salt.
  • Gravies containing tomato and garlic need less salt.
  • For seasoning soups, pasta, French fries etc use black pepper instead of salt.
  • Avoid salt containers in your dining table. Keep only pepper bottles.

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