This essential seasoning is also vital for our bodies to function. It really is worth its salt
Some ingredients we might claim to be ‘essential’ (chilli sauce, mayonnaise and cheese – preferably all together – being in my top three), but few are actually necessary for us humans to exist; except, that is, for salt. Whether mined hundreds of metres beneath us and chucked back on our roads to prevent ice, or hand harvested from the sea and sprinkled in snow-like flakes over our scrambled eggs, salt has the same chemical composition. The sodium and chloride in salt (neither of which we produce naturally) are crucial in muscle function, nutrient absorption, fluid regulation and sending nerve signals to the brain.
But, of course, aside from its health properties, salt is also vital for enjoying food. As one of the five key ‘tastes’ we experience (the others being sweet, sour, bitter and umami), salt makes things taste better. From reducing bitterness to enhancing sweetness, it provides balance. It can also be used as a preservative, to improve texture and colour, and as an abrasive. And that’s without even touching on the hundreds of ways it can be applied to your beauty or cleaning regimes, or even its powers to ward off evil spirits (a quick pinch chucked over the left shoulder should do it).
- On average, we each have approximately 200g of salt in our bodies – that’s 2–3 salt shakers’ worth!
- Salt contains a 1:1 ratio of sodium and chloride.
- The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 5g salt per day (that’s just under one teaspoon).
- Get beers colder, faster, by adding salt to iced water.
- Salt wasn’t always just a seasoning: it was currency, too. Roman soldiers used to be paid, and slaves bought, in salt.
- Make extra-smooth garlic purée by adding a pinch of coarse salt – it acts as an abrasive and seasoning.
Extracted from Taste: The Infographic Book of Food by Laura Rowe, illustrated by Vicki Turner (Aurum Press).