2 May 2012

Let's Talk About Salt...

Image from Superlyrics.com

I've wanted to type about salt for a while and finally it has taken a dark clouded weekend to dig out my notes, put my nose in a book, and look on line for facts that will grind sodium chloride just that bit more.

Year after year there is always the same message from health professionals in England, we consume too much salt. What I want to rant and type about is mentioned on Salt 'n' Pepa's album cover, is it 'very necessary' in cooking? Honestly I cook without salt, I think there is enough salt in foods and I don't need to add more because I don't want to drown out natural flavours. When I first started to cook for others I would be asked if I had any, because it was needed on my dish. I took this quite personally, but now understand everyone associates salt with flavour or lack of it. When living at home I was used to what was served and not making a fuss or adding any seasoning on a meal. My mum used an extensive range of fresh and dried herbs in cooking and they worked great, she also used more black pepper than salt in her dishes.

Here is a list of foods that contain a high percentage of salt:

Soy sauce
Baking powder
Cured meats
Gravy granules
Sun dried tomatoes
Stock cubes

Ouch, all of the above are my favourite types of nibbles and I use them quite a bit in meals. By following my mums methods I can elaborate a dish with even more flavour instead of creating the danger of making it too salty. I'm so gutted about anchovies, I love them at the moment but need to cage them off for a while! I might be punching salt in the corner with my jabs (which I'm pretty good at!), but I know it plays a big part in the function of our bodies. It is needed for transmitting nerve signals and controlling the amount of water in the body. Unfortunately too much eating out, adding salt to food and getting a bit bacon happy could lead to a high blood pressure which leads to heart disease. No one deserves to get to this stage, but we all know this happens and our body wants us to change.

Here are some alternative suggestions:

Unsmoked back bacon
Switch to ripe fresh tomatoes in sauces with oregano.
Make your own stock with water, fresh herbs and fish/chicken bones.Then pour in an ice cube tray and freeze.
Frozen vegetables not canned.
Canning, smoking and curing methods are high in salt.
Dry fruit as a snack not salted nuts.
When a recipe asks for salt, half that quantity.
Opt for raw fruit and vegetables.
Read nutritional labels, which can be a bit tedious when you need to pop to the supermarket for a quick shop, but once you know about one product it will be worth it.
Keep salad dressings to one side and use sparingly.
Sea salt not table salt on the table.
*Drink 2 litres of water a day.
*Run, sweat, stretch and drink milk after. 

I cook for kids everyday and watch the salt intake especially for energetic boys, for most meals I try and place raw vegetables to pick on and a protein enriched meal. I know this is easier said than done but try your best to encourage a colourful plate.

In a strange way you can't get away from salt, which I understand because for some it is a matter of habit like the taste for sugar. Gradually cutting down and eating low to medium salty foods in moderation will help. The convenience of buying a ready meal after a hard days work is quick and easy, but if you make this a regular habit, your body will let you know in a scary way. I'm a pure salty victim of certain take aways and try and make what I can at home, which you will see very soon. I'm a person that likes to see and control what goes into a meal.

I might have filled you with one or two new facts, but either way fresh, raw, slow cooked and grilled is the way forward. Listen, no one is perfect, we can all try new diets and fads but every body is different so listen to yours.

Many thanks to:

Helen Mc Grath
Gillian Mc Keith
BBC Health
NHS choices
Nicola Graimes


* Great points for fitness fanatics, and a habit of mine to throw them in when I make healthy suggestions.