Ahhh, my beloved salt! I can't and won't live without it.

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Thankfully I don't have to.


Salt is vital to our health--the less refined the better, this theme is a constant in how I make choices about the foods I eat. Simply put, eliminate foods that undergo processes that alter the nutritional value like refined, enriched, or hydrogenated which is found mainly in processed or packaged foods. In this 4th installment of my series I'm talking about salt, it's a topic that comes up often and I find it interesting to note how diverse the audience is talking about it. Whether its friends, family, doctors, or conversations online, most recognize the exorbitant amount that's currently being used in processed and packaged foods across the board. I'm happy that people are paying attention.

Out of the three in my series, this is the only one I refer to as an ingredient. I prefer salts like sea salt and Fleur de Sel because they are harvested naturally, and contain beneficial minerals.

Unfortunately, many companies who can soups, package frozen dinners, and make bottled sauces are adding shocking amounts of this ingredient to our foods. Even those labeled healthy, natural, or organic have a surprising amount in them. Canned soup is a perfect example: in a 16 oz. can there are roughly 2 ½ servings and each serving may contain 700+ mg of sodium. After heating it up, how many of us have dumped the entire can into our bowl, mug, etc.? I know I’m guilty.

So over the past few years I’ve been learning how to prepare soups where I control the amount of salt. However, there are instances where my time is limited, so I’ve been searching for prepared soups and broth bases with the less sodium, fewer ingredients, and words THAT I don't have to Google. Besides making my own, or buying it, there are a few good broth options available with a lower sodium count. Always pay attention to the label, especially to the suggested serving size. 

·         Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) = 2300mg of sodium

·         1 tsp. = 1200mg to 2300mg depending on the type; fine, coarse, etc.

Because of the increased levels or sodium, or HFCS in packaged and processed foods our taste buds have been dulled. We are unable to enjoy and taste the dynamic flavors of real, whole foods. I equate it to identifying the notes of a fragrance; there are so many notes/layers to broth, sauces, wine, dessert, etc. I want to be tuned in and pick up on those nuances, especially when preparing a meal. Great recipe creators are adept at this skill. Once you are able to clue into the flavors, that's a good sign you're eliminating poorly manufactured foods from your diet. I also want to be tuned into the cravings I have for salt. Our bodies are incredibly smart machines capable of sending signals to indicate what we need, it's just a matter of being able to listen.

Foods with naturally occurring sodium:

·         Beets

·         Celery

·         Chard

·         Spinach

·         Carrots

·         Artichokes

·         Cantaloupe

·         Kombu/seaweed

·         Shrimp/shellfish

 

Salt definitely has an important role in cooking magnifying the flavors of a dish in the most perfect way. However If you're looking for some ideas other than salt, I've added a few below. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below, thanks!

 

Alternatives/Additions to salting foods:

·         Lemons

I squeeze them on my salads, rice, and roasted veggies. I buy an entire bag because I use them often to brighten up a salad, add to my morning tea, or for one of my favorite dishes from 101cookbooks.com, “Lemony chickpea stir fry.” When they are available, I buy the organic variety; they may be slightly more expensive, but I find they are usually juicier and I feel more confident zesting, squeezing, and dropping - skin and all - in my morning or evening tea.

Myer lemons are also a great addition to your winter meals since they are in season December through spring. I use the juice and drop some of the wedges in my salads, teas, etc. They are a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, and have a thin rind, are somewhat orange in color, less tart, and delicious. They are worth the extra bucks.

·         Spices/Herbs
There is a wealth of options out there, from savory to sweet. Where I live there are several great resources for spices: Penzey’s Spices has a vast selection of salt-free, or low-sodium spices that enhance the dish instead of over-powering it. Nabeel’s Café & Market, and many other imported food stores offer spices indicative of their region. And the following places in town offer spices in bulk so you can buy as little or as much as you want: Golden Temple, Organic Harvest, Whole Foods, and The Fresh Market. Recently my neighbor in the Momentum vendor marketplace turned me onto a local small-batch, salt purveyor who blends sea salts with southern flavor, Savor Salt Co., you can find them here.

In addition to being able to sample a particular flavor of spice when buying in bulk, buying less means they'll stay fresh longer. However, if you do buy in larger quantities, store the extra quantity in an airtight container in the freezer, just don't forget about it!

Herbs are an amazing flavor addition to homemade dishes and they can be grown in your yard, or in a container outdoors or in, talk about convenient! Many of them are perennials so thankfully they grow back year after year which is incredibly low maintenance. Also, many are native to the region which is definitely a win=win. In my yard I grow a wide range of herbs that I use in my kitchen, there's nothing like the satisfaction of being able to grab a pair of kitchen shears and harvest what you've grown. And, since mine are so hardy I encourage my neighbors to help themselves.

 

Bottom line, I do love salt and get a kick out of experimenting with the vast array of choices we have. There is an endless supply of flavors, varying consistencies, or like oysters, specific salts sourced from different regions of the country, it's amazing! In fact, I'd love to attend a salt tasting or pairing, please share if you know of any in the area.

Things my blogging partner Mandy says.... (Hint: they're always good!)

Nitty-Gritty continued