Many a chef has taken the liberty of flavoring their famous dishes with the white granulated substance called salt. We all love it. How it drives our cravings especially when mingled with the smells and sounds of popcorn popping at the movie theatre as we await our turn at the snack bar.
Seeing those yellow kernels swirling through their warm air chamber, touring our nostrils with a giddy feeling of anticipation, making us opt for the super sized combo.
We rationalize that we will share it but knowing all the while this salt induced luminary poses a threat of selfishness over our sensory of clear thinking. The box built for multiple voyeurs will be cradled in your lap under dim movie light.
Buttery, mouth-watering and wonderfully briny. We've made our decision and pay, dearly. We get closer to the napkin stand which nudges us ever so suggestively toward the salt shaker.
Did you almost forget that the subject was about salt and its effects on our bodies? It is easy to do. Many in the processed and fast food industry want you to forget about it too. Salt should not catch the brunt of a bad rap though. It is a wonderful, natural product with good intention, coming from humble beginnings.
Sodium Chloride, our table salt, is a chemical compound of NaCI=Sodium and Chloride. This compound occurs naturally in many parts of the world.
There are two distinct manufacturing sources of table salt, rock salt and brine. The mineral we know as rock salt or its technical term, halite, is so vast in earth's natural structure and in man- made production that it can be seen from space telescopes.
There are large amounts of salt accounted for in our oceans. An estimated 3.5% of the weight of ocean water is attributed to salt and other minerals.
How Salt Is Made
Rock salt goes through a mining process that calls for escavation of underground areas that are explored for salt concentration. If worthwhile, the work begins to blast out the area, recovering and sorting the product for the next phase of refinement. The rock salt has to undergo a process of being crushed and is then filtered through a screening type cycle to remove any particles, minerals or other substances that would make the final product consumable.
The brining process is where the salt undergoes a water bath and is allowed to dry, largely due to a solar evaporation, before being given a "salt wash" and processed by machine into an edible product. Both methods require time, effort and skill. Making the results, that much more appealing as we rely heavily on this crystal substance to substantially satisfy our taste buds and maintain our bodies, safely.
There is no shortage of salt. Infact, the top producers of the in-demand product we have grown to love comes from a potpourri of worldwide growers. Touting the list are the United States, Canada, Germany, eastern Europe and China being the leaders in spicing the masses. Two thirds of our daily sodium intake comes from processed foods. If we go the natural route, good for you, most do not.
Safety In Numbers
The Dietary Guidelines set by the FDA suggests that the average person should only consume a daily ration of 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. Not tantalizing when translated, means a teaspoon of salt a day. That delicious popcorn we discussed earlier, if digested in the buttery super sized mode, packs a whopping 1,640 calories. Keeping this in mind, The American Heart Association would like to see our sodium intake lowered to 1,500 milligrams a day.
The sodium in a small popcorn is about 150 milligrams. I will let you do the math on the larger more revered size but suffice it to say, it is significantly higher than what we should be taking into our bodies. Let alone our requests for the extra "butter" squirts, that have their own salted ingredients and the mindless salt sprinkling we add to the mix. Notwithstanding the sodium in the beverages and candy that accompanies this field trip into the salt mines, we have ingested enough sodium to make our internal organs beg for mercy.
Sitting in a dimly lit room, stuffing ourselves without a notion of what this all will mean later for the HDL's probably isn't our first thought, as we talk with friends and wait for the movie trailers to begin. But, there are good benefits as well.
Preservative With Purpose
Salt does have many positives. It helps to maintain the body's balance of fluids and is a preservative to many foods to prevent spoilage and frankly, it just tastes good. Salt is used in many references from how we should use figurative salt in our speech when dealing with others to featuring it in the best of our recipes.
The Role Salt Plays In Our Lives
Our U.S. food packaging for the most part lists the nutrients and sodium per serving amounts on the labels. Read the labels. Jot down what you should eat and what you and your family in reality eats and see if you can slowly cut down the salt in your cooking and eating habits.
Seek out recipes that use other seasonings rather than salting it up. One hint is that if salt is listed as on of the top three ingredients for the recipe look for alternatives. Also sodium is listed on processed foods under different names:
Just to name a few. How the sodium was derived has a lot to do with how it is listed on the ingredients label, so be careful. Other ingredients may hide additional salt as they may be sub components or part of an ingredient that uses salt or sodium in its production.
The American Heart Association says it has a goal to improve cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20%, hopefully by the year 2020. Good goal indeed. There is an optimal need and benefit for global focus through the kaleidoscope of cultures to work on being healthy-starting right now. What do you think?