Monday, April 15, 2013

Sea Salt: Age Old Flavor with an Oceanic Twist

By Sunny Hon
Whatever happened to the salt your grandmother used back in the day?  You know… the stuff that came cheaply out of the cylindrical cardboard container, laced with just enough iodine to keep your thyroids happy…?  The recent rise of the gourmet and health food culture, undoubtedly spurred on by the implosion of celebrity chefs and cooking shows on network and cable television, has put forth an aggressive competitor to your grandmother’s salt.  Did we have an issue with the stuff that was in the old shakers?  Were we complaining about it not being salty enough?  Did it not provide our food with enough gastronomical “umph?”  Nevertheless, every trend-conscientious restaurant did away with the old and in its place, replaced it with sea salt.

What is sea salt?  What’s so special about it?  For one, sea salt is more natural than your run-of-mill table salt.  Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater with minimal processing.  The result is mostly sodium chloride with 2-10% of other minerals (i.e. iron, sulfur, magnesium, and other trace elements).  Depending on the source of the seawater, the percentage of each mineral varies, as does its taste, color and even texture.  Table salt, on the hand, comes from terrestrial salt deposits.  This salt is heavily processed and treated to remove all the other minerals resulting in a product that is 99.9% sodium chloride.  Anti-caking agents, like silicon dioxide, are added to the terrestrial salt to prevent clumping.  Iodine is also added in the production process to provide consumers with a good source of this important mineral.  Because of the high sodium chloride content, table salt is saltier than sea salt.  The better flavoring and texture lies on the side of sea salt due to its mineral content.  It is also considered healthier as the minerals work to balance electrolytes in your body.

Regardless of where your salt comes from, salt intake should be held in check in a healthy diet.  While it provides for great flavoring to food and helps your body function, too much of it can be detrimental to your health.  Daily intake of sodium should be no more than 2,300 milligrams.  Adults over the age of 51 or those have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney problems should limit sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams per day.  Processed foods usually contain high amounts of sodium (used as a preservative) and thus should be avoided.  At the end of the day, salt is salt.  Like all things, use it, don’t abuse it!
(All Images from Google) 

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