It had to happen: A British study shows a low-salt diet does not prevent heart disease. “Fruit, exercise and not smoking are far more important,” says the report.
It had to happen: A British study shows a low-salt diet does not prevent heart disease.
“Fruit, exercise and not smoking are far more important,” says the report.
This comes as a surprise, perhaps a shock, to the 99 percent of us above age 40 who have gotten the severe words from our docs: “No more salt, buddy.”
Shortly after the British study, Australian doctors issued a national salt warning, calling it “white death.”
“Cutting back could save 32,000 lives,” they said.
Meanwhile, our own government rests on the conservative side, proposing we consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day, and 1,500 milligrams for those with high blood pressure.
Is salt healthy?
It’s not surprising the medical community who are not hired by salt producers scourges salt. It has been proven that sodium chloride constricts our veins. That increases blood pressure, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Then again, we could not live without salt. In moderate amounts, it regulates blood flow and is important for the proper functioning of nerves, muscles and the body’s electrical communications network. Salt is the salt of life, at least here.
Where it comes from
Enough of the health lecture. If we must limit salt, why not make sure the salt we do use is a great salt? There is a difference. In fact, crystal gourmet salt has a lower sodium content than refined (milled) salt. But that’s only because you use fewer crystals than grains. Still, there’s less guilt here.
Salt, once traded as money in the English Empire, today is our cheapest –– and, hence, most prolific ––seasoning. We’re convinced salt costs less than a dollar a pound and need prodding to pay more.
The prodding comes with the new panache of artesian salt. It could be a mineralized color or perhaps “only touched by wooden tools.” Handmade sea salt can be four times more costly than standard table salt.
Notice the whimsical names. This is new for us accustomed to calling salt simply salt. As with wine, the names are important marketing. There’s Pure Himalayan Pink salt. Molokai Red from Hawaii and Black Diamond, with added charcoal, from Oregon.
The finishing touch
Folks seem to respond to salt flavors differently. That’s because our mouths react to salt differently. That makes it hard to recommend an artesian salt. The best scheme, if this interests you, is go to a gourmet shop that has a salt-tasting bar. There, you’ll be reminded that great salt, indeed, has a flavor and a texture and even a color. Anything less is common table salt, and in preparing a meal for valued guests, common never belongs on the table.
To further differentiate gourmet from table salt, the former are called “finishing” salt. You should ask for this instead of “that pink stuff.”
As if the world needs more complication, the same thing is happening to salt’s best friend — pepper. It, too, now has flavors, exotic names and exotic prices. Here’s a look at some of the more esoteric salts on today’s market. Man the ACE inhibitors and beta blockers and full salting ahead. But first, we start with an old friend:
It comes from salt mines and is refined to remove almost everything but the sodium chloride, the bad stuff for our veins. The minerals lost mean it lacks flavor. Since the 1920s, iodine has been sprayed on it to counter enlargement of the thyroid gland. 25 pounds for $7.
Its specific shape of flakes is crucial to Jewish cuisine. There is less sodium chloride in a teaspoon compared to table salt. 3 pounds for $9.
USDA does not recognize it, but this salt comes with a claim of no carbon compounds and harvest from pure, clean salt ponds by non-smoking French collectionneurs. 16 ounces for $4.
These are large, dry crystals for that salt mill your sister bought you for Christmas, for cooking or table. $11 for 16 ounces.
This is coarse salt, made up of larger crystals. They are served in grinders as are peppercorns for a “fresh” taste. They are handiest when making pretzels or a salt crust on fish or meat. Crystals that are chipped are called flake salt. They dissolve faster. $6.25 a pound.
These are harvested from clean oceanic waters and contain natural iodine and minerals. They arrive in moist, crystalline texture, coarse or fine grinds. You’ll find it most often on the tables of French chefs. $5 per pound.
ITALIAN SEA SALT
The highest mineral content of any salt, it is harvested on Sicily and loaded with potassium, iodine and fluorine. Despite this, the salt offers a delicate taste without being too salty, so to speak. $5.99 per 26.5 ounces.
FLEUR DE SEL
This “flower of salt” is harvested from the tops of salt evaporation ponds. They come in many flavor “profiles” and called “the caviar of salts.” That’s a price hint: $10 per 6 ounces.
Its color comes from minerals in the clay lining of salt ponds. Grey often is mentioned as the world’s best salt in culinary reviews. $11 per pound.
HAWAIIAN SEA SALTS
These come in bright red and black colors. The red is from volcanic clay and iron. The black is activated charcoal adding color and flavor. $7 for 6 ounces.
These are wood-fire smoked adding an unusual flavor. Some salt sprayed with liquid-smoke flavoring is sold as smoked but will be bitter. $1.30 per ounce.
AND ON AND ON
Still have room in your spice rack? Blended sea salts are arriving on the market, including smoked garlic, bacon chipotle, habanero and porcini pickle salt. American Korean Glasswort salt comes with the claim “perfect for seafood.” Small jars are $17. The all-time price leader is Italian black truffle salt at $25 per 3.6 ounces.