Salt can be a source of immeasurable disagreement among even the experts. Some say everyone should refrain from salt usage. Others state that only folks with family histories of health issues need to worry. Still more present arguments for why we need to keep salt in our diets. It can be confusing and frustrating to try to sort out exactly what we should know and do.
Salt isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself. It provides flavor in cooking; it helps metabolize yeast in breads; it draws moisture from veggies and fruits when needed; and it tightens protein bonds, giving strength to dough and batter when we bake. In our bodies, salt helps our blood cells, our nerves and our muscles; and unfortunately salt isn’t something our bodies make, so we need to ingest it.
On the other hand, folks prone to high blood pressure, migraines, heart and stroke problems, and kidney stones have found that cutting back on their sodium intake helps their overall health. In addition, studies do reveal that our bodies only need so much salt to function properly, and we have a tendency to eat way above that amount.
Sodium is naturally in a lot of the foods we eat, and simply eating fresh fruits and veggies and low fat meat and chicken and fish will provide our bodies with much of the sodium we need. So, for myself and my family, when I cook, I don’t usually add salt. Herbs and spices lend flavor to just about anything cooked or baked without any need for salt. In most baked goods, you can almost always cut the salt by half and your baked product will not be affected in taste or texture. Sometimes you can even omit it altogether. When I do want to use salt, though, I judiciously use small amounts of coarse salt. The coarse salt tends to give you that slightly salty flavor without overdoing it, and by reducing the amount and using the slightly large salt crystals, you do cut down on your actual sodium intake, even if only by 25%.
Salt in Processed Products
Of course, most of our salt “problems” stem from the products on the grocery shelves which tend to have large amounts of either salt or sugar to both preserve and provide flavor. The good news is that many companies are making low salt and reduced sugar versions of their products. You just have to look for them and choose to use them.