There is something magical about salt
But it is a magic that is easy to overlook. In many households, salt has become so common that most people don’t recognise the remarkable properties that it possesses. By experimenting with a variety of salts we can learn just how these enticing flavours can make our food ‘sparkle.’
Too much salt is bad for us
It is almost universally agreed that too much salt is bad for us. Any Scientist will tell you that we can’t function without salt, and let’s face it, who would want to? From unsalted chips and flavourless soups to insipid steaks, salt is a vital part of our everyday lives. Our biggest adversary is the beloved salt shaker that we are all guilty of using with abandon. By getting to know our salts, learning how to pair them with our foods in order to maximise flavour while minimising intake, we can work to becoming ‘Saltwise!’
What does it mean to be ‘Saltwise?’
Fritz Gubler and David Glynn, authors of The Salt Book, advocate this notion of being ‘Saltwise’ and getting to know your salt, whether as a condiment or an ingredient.
- Know your salt:
We need to know our salt and learn how to maximise flavour while minimising our intake.
- Throw away the salt shaker:
We need to throw away the beloved salt shaker and stop shaking with abandon. When cooking with salt we need to use our hands and add salt in small increments, tasting as we go to ensure we are not oversalting.
- Get your daily requirements of iodine:
Iodine is essential for the healthy function of the thyroid gland, which produces hormones that regulate our metabolism. Our daily iodine requirement is 150 micrograms. We need to consume products which have been made with iodised salt, for example, bread.
- Avoid hidden salts:
It is important to take the time to prepare our food ourselves in order to avoid any hidden salts that are contained in processed foods.
- Follow the Heart Foundation of Australia’s recommendations:
We need to follow the recommendation of a maximum of 6 grams of salt per day. This involves avoiding hidden salts by reading the labels on all our processed foods and become more aware.
- Read the Label:
We need to know how to read a label.
We need to know that on nutrition labels salt is expressed as sodium. Sodium is Na and salt is NaCl.
To calculate the amount of salt, we need to multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5.
milligrams of sodium (Na) × 2.55 = milligrams of salt (NaCl)
For example, 200 milligrams of sodium equates to 500 milligrams or 0.5 grams of salt (200mg × 2.5 = 500mg salt or 0.5 grams)
To convert milligrams of salt to milligrams of sodium we need to divide the salt content by 2.5.
Nutrition information panels will show ‘per serve’ and ‘per 100g’ columns. We should always make our calculations based on sodium per 100g.
The Heart Foundation recommends products that have a sodium level below 120mg/100g. We should use this as a guide.
We need to know that some products we would think have little added salt—because they are not salty—actually contain very high levels of salt. The value of sodium in bread (1200mg/100g) and breakfast cereals is an example.
We should know the amount of sodium contained in the processed foods we eat. That is being ‘salt wise.’
All of this information and more, including the history of salt and recipes from making your own salt to cooking the perfect steak, and how to tackle the fundamentals of salting – curing, pickling, brining and preserving – can be found in The Salt Book.