Just a pinch of salt….
Salt, also known as table salt or rock salt (halite), is a crystalline mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts. It is absolutely essential for animal life, but can be harmful to animals and plants in excess. Salt is one of the oldest, most ubiquitous food seasonings and salting is an important method of food preservation. The taste of salt (saltiness) is one of the basic human tastes.
Salt for human consumption is produced in different forms: unrefined salt (such as sea salt), refined salt (table salt), and iodized salt. It is a crystalline solid, white, pale pink or light grey in colour, normally obtained from sea water or rock deposits. Edible rock salts may be slightly greyish in colour because of mineral content.
Because of its importance to survival, salt has often been considered a valuable commodity during human history. However, as salt consumption has increased during modern times, scientists have become aware of the health risks associated with high salt intake, including high blood pressure in sensitive individuals. Therefore, some health authorities have recommended limitations of dietary sodium, although others state the risk is minimal for typical western diets.
Additives in table salt
Most table salt sold for consumption contain additives which address a variety of health concerns, especially in the developing world. The identities and amounts of additives vary widely from country to country.
- Iodine and Iodide
- Anti-caking agents
- Other additives
Too much or too little salt in the diet can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, or electrolyte disturbance, which can cause neurological problems, or death. Drinking too much water, with insufficient salt intake, puts a person at risk of water intoxication (hyponatremia)
Lowering salt in diet
It is a misconception that sea salt has a lower sodium content than table salt, — they are both basically sodium chloride. A low sodium diet reduces the intake of sodium by the careful selection of food. This aim can also be achieved by the use of a salt substitute, and Potassium chloride is widely used for this purpose. Although recommended limits for potassium are higher than for sodium, potassium has its own health disadvantages, and it is advised that such a salt substitute not be used by those taking certain prescription drugs. Another possibility being researched is the use of seaweed granules in the manufacture of processed foods as an alternative to salt.
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