Bob del Grosso sent me the link to this article in Scientific American on salt by Melinda Wenner Moyer and I read it with a sense of finally. Increasing evidence that nobody really knows what they're talking about when they're talking about salt, except that it has different effects on different people.
Given that its fundamental to our existence (without it we literally die) and that it helped to create both stable stationary societies and world travel (food preservation and therefore surplus in a community or on a ship), our main failure would be to undervalue its importance and power. It is powerfully good and useful; but also, anything so powerful can be used harmfully (as in our processed foods).Since there is so much uncertainty (read Ms. Wenner Moyer's husbands interview with food authority Marion Nestle for more on this), and that a definitive understanding of its effects are unlikely anytime soon, there's only two things we can rely on: common sense and our sense of taste. Because salt is so important, our bodies are very adept at regulating it. If something tastes too salty, that's bad for you, your body is telling you so.
Salting to taste is an important skill and the only thing you need to consider (there's even a good cookbook that uses this dictum as it's title). We probably need less salt as we get older. Your body will tell you so. That's part of the common sense. The other part is to avoid processed food, where salt hides and slips unrecognized into your body. Cook your own food, season it with salt to taste, and that's about all you need to concern yourself with.
Leave the dithering to the politicians who want to regulate what we can and cannot eat (how about working on peace, solving hunger issues, getting us out of debt, encouraging new businesses and jobs?).
Cook your own food.
Here's the meta-analysis mentioned in the Moyer article. Meta-analyses are notoriously squishy; this one comes from a good source.
And more on the confused data:
More great links:
- My popular salt posts veal salt, making lemon confit, and home-cured bacon.
- Original post on the topic: Salt!
- Buy salts from Mark Bitterman at the Meadow.
- Harold McGee discuses the colors, shape, and texture of salts in the NYT.
- The Salt Institute is the non-profit organization focusing on the responsible uses of salt.
© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.