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Don’t be A-Salted This Winter

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in January, 2014

Winter is the time we naturally contract and constrict as we brace ourselves for the bitter cold and wind. We have an inherent inclination toward heavier, more hearty food and items that contain more salt. From earliest times, salt was used as a preservative to extend the abundance of summer into the scarcity of winter, and was one of the most precious commodities for ancient people. It is absolutely essential for human life, however the quality and quantity that we consume can have far reaching consequences.

Traditionally, salt comes from the sea. Sea salt, in addition to sodium chloride, contains 60-72 different trace minerals that are chemically useful to the body including gold and silver. Unrefined sea salt can consist of up to 2 to 3 percent of these trace minerals. Conversely, conventional table salt is a refined manufactured article in which most of these trace elements have been removed. Mined salt is almost pure sodium chloride with the addition of iodine and dextrose.

Today, American taste buds have been assaulted by this coarse mined product. Almost any processed food item you buy has excessive amounts of refined salt and our health has been jeopardized by it. Excessive salt consumption contributes to high blood pressure, increased mass of the left ventricle in the heart, and thickening and stiffening of arteries around the heart and kidneys. It contributes to strokes and the aggregation of platelets. It undermines bone metabolism and has been implicated in stomach carcinomas.

Using unrefined sea salt exclusively will gradually allow your taste buds to become more attuned to the subtle tastes in nature’s fare. Your enjoyment of every morsel will grow with even the simplest of foods. Be aware, however, that not all unrefined salts are alike. Avoid the darker, crude, gray sea salts and use the lighter, brighter varieties. They will bring out the taste of food rather than covering it up, and they do not contain excess mineral compounds.

Even with pure unrefined sea salt, however, quantity must be controlled. Children and elderly people need less salt. The more active we are, the more salt we need. Too little salt can lead to a lack of vitality and nervous system malfunctions. Too much can lead to myriad problems as mentioned above, but also hyperactivity and aggressive behavior. Too much salt will also cause you to crave sugar, which gives rise to scores of other potential health problems. The best way to avoid getting too much salt is to always use it in cooking and condiments, and never directly at the table. Various products such as miso, tamari soy sauce, shoyu, and umeboshi are creative ways of adding salt to the meal in a delicious and appetizing way.

So this winter, don’t assault your body with salt. The quantity and quality of the salt you take in could have far reaching effects on every aspect of your life.

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