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Salt: We NEED it!

Many functions of the human body depend on sodium and water. It is a necessary ingredient and mineral, although modern diets often contain more salt than required. Besides being a necessary part of our diets, salt is also a flavor enhancer .  It really compliments and enhances food. It makes potatoes taste more....potatoey--a beans more beany, steak more steaky. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends tabout 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) of table salt per day. The recommended amount seems low but it is more than three times what our ancient ancestors would have consumed. You may blame the salt shaker but less than 15 percent of the salt we consume is added in the kitchen or at the table. 75 percent comes from processed foods by way of the salt that is added to increase shelf live, improve taste, and add weight. I, for one, am a huge fan of salt. My sodium levels are fine but my body seems to constantly crave it. Maybe I need more sodium than most or maybe it is just a bad habit but, regardless, I hope it doesn't get me into trouble in the future because I don't know what I'd do without my precious salt. :)

Cheap but Precious

Salt was used to preserve foods before canning and freezing by drawing off moisture so that it is a less welcoming environment to harmful bacteria. Historically, salt powered trade, fortified armies, built wealth, propped up economies, and preserved the food necessary to sustain large armies and urban populations. in fact, Roman soldiers were paid, in part, with salt. The term “salary” originates from the Latin word for salt,  salarium

So Many Choices: What's Up With the Different Types of Salt?!

So...why all the different types of salt? All salt is sodium chloride but small amounts of different minerals found in sea salts and certain mined salts can change the color and flavor of salt. When salt is refined, these characteristics are lost. Unrefined (edible) salt is often expensive and is not the type of salt one would use for boiling pasta water. Sea salt, table salt, and kosher salt should not be used interchangeably because they all have different sized and shaped crystals. In some cases, different brands of kosher or sea salt may measure up differently. According to an article on, one teaspoon of regular table salt equals two teaspoons of Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt or 1-1/2 teaspoons of Morton brand kosher salt. Sea salts can generally be used interchangeably with table salt. (unless they're large flakes, then just salt to taste)

Below is a list of different types of salts (courtesy of Wikipedia,, and Food Network)

  • Table Salt: A standard condiment salt, refined into fine, uniform, dense grains with additives that keep the crystals from caking and help ensure a steady pour from salt shakers.
  • Iodized Salt: Table salt fortified with the mineral potassium iodide. Iodine deficiencies can lead to serious mental and physical impairment. In 1925, the U.S. government began fortifying salt with iodine, choosing salt because it is universally consumed.
  • Sea Salt: Salt that has been harvested from evaporated sea water. The large flakes are easy for cooks to pinch between their fingers, and the texture adds crunch and flavor when added at the table.  Fleur de sel, "flower of salt," is one of the best known sea salts, harvested in France and renowned for its delicate flakes and fine flavor.  Raw sea salt is very bitter because of magnesium and calcium compounds, and is rarely eaten. It can often be found in cosmetics or bath salts. 
  • Kosher Salt: A coarse salt that does not contain additives. Kosher salt is used in traditional Jewish preparations to make meats kosher by drawing out blood from the tissue. Many cooks find that it has a superior flavor, and its larger grains and coarse texture make it an ideal choice when cooking .

  • Seasoned Salt: Table salt flavored with ingredients like dried garlic or onions. Some specialty purveyors offer smoked salts for added flavor. Hawaii produces salts that are mixed with lava and clay particles to produce attractive pink and dark gray salts. This salt is referred to as Black Lava Salt. South Asia also produces a sulfuric pungent version called   Kala namak. Kala namak is used as a condiment it many foods, a laxative, toothpaste ingredient, and to treat hysteria. Many vegans use it because it tends to mimic the taste of eggs.  
  • Rock Salt: Less refined than other salts, grayish rock salt is often used for freezing ice cream and melting icy sidewalks.
  • Fluoride Salt: Many of the countries that do not have fluoridated water and toothpaste have fluoride salt. 35% of salt sold in France contains sodium fluoride 

VirginiaPeanuts posted Apr 25, 2012

Nice job, VP! Plus'd

erick99 (rep: 433k) posted Apr 25, 2012


And where would those Virginia peanuts be without salt! I read not long ago that the biggest source of salt in the US diet is BREAD, which was quite a surprise to me.

I've always been a rather heavy salt user. I consider it a science experiment on myself. I don't think it is anywhere near as bad as most experts say as long as you have commensurate water intake to flush it out. But that is not my advice to anyone.

It's really sad that every year dozens of people die from not enough salt intake - hyponatremia. The victims are mostly athletes and others who sweat and/or drink a lot but don't have adequate salt intake.

There was a study that showed that death from cardiovascular problems INCREASES as salt intake DECREASES:

fluffy (rep: 2.2k) posted Apr 25, 2012


Top 10 dietary sources of salt:

Bread and rolls, 7.4%
Cold cuts/cured meats, 5.1%
Pizza, 4.9%
Fresh and processed poultry, 4.5%
Soups, 4.3%
Sandwiches like cheeseburgers, 4%
Cheese, 3.8%
Pasta dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce, 3.3%
Meat dishes like meatloaf with tomato sauce, 3.2%
Snacks, including chips, pretzels, popcorn and puffs, 3.1%

Note that salty snacks are in last place.

fluffy (rep: 2.2k) posted Apr 25, 2012


Pottasium is a positive ion as well. As many times as I have lectured on this and I type it wrong. I will delete and correct my post. Thanks to fluffy for pointing out my error.

erick99 (rep: 433k) posted Apr 25, 2012


The neurons in our brain need salt so that they can fire when needed. Neurons have a slight negative charge in their resting state. When a cell needs to fire, sodium (NA+) ions are pumped into the neuron to make it more positive and then it fires. After the cell fires the extra sodium flows back out. The neuron also uses potassium (K+) as the other part of this equation. This process is known as the sodium pump. Also, interestingly, common table salt is comprised of sodium and chloride. Either of these are poisonous but when combined they taste great on food :) [corrected]

erick99 (rep: 433k) posted Apr 25, 2012


ever watch the movie SALT by Angelina Jolie? i love salt- salt on my fries, salt in my rice, salt in my soup, salt in my salad, etc.....
nice work

gangstabarbie (rep: 21k) posted Apr 25, 2012


Wow Nice article!! I didn't know that much about salt before. :)

ArtemisDeals (rep: 7.2k) posted Apr 25, 2012


@fluffy: lol...yes, Virginia peanuts would be nothing without salt ;)

VirginiaPeanuts (rep: 12.4k) posted Apr 26, 2012


Good article.

Muscle cramps are often mistaken as a lack of potassiun. The shortage is often (rather) a lack of sodium. I suspect the mechanism is similar to what Errick mentioned above. Comsuming bananas in response to cramps is usually counterproductive. Cramps continue or even intensify. The reason that athletes will sometimes cramp is not because they lost potassium in the sweat, but because of the salt loss....and the reason they consume salt tablets sometimes.

nthsll (rep: 12.5k) posted Apr 26, 2012


Let me say one thing about my use of salt. I use to get swollen ankles,when i used reqular salt,I switched to sea salt.I never had that problem again. Thank you sea salt;LOL

newjerseychickxo (rep: 14k) posted Apr 26, 2012