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Is Salt Good For You, Or Is Salt Bad For You?

By marcussamuelsson.com | May 11, 2011

Photo: L. Marie

This question has been on diners and chefs’ minds alike for many years. Already in 2011, several articles have been published sharing news for and against this mineral.

Most studies have cited excess salt in your diet as a cause of high blood pressure, however, a recent study of low-salt diets claimed that a diet low in salt increases “the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes and do not prevent high blood pressure.” Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criticized the study, calling it flawed and saying “this study might need to be taken with a grain of salt.”

In fact, the F.D.A. has acknowledged that excessive salt consumption is a problem, and is considering mandating maximum levels of sodium in food. According to researchers, 80 percent of the sodium in the American diet comes from packaged food. In restaurants, or if you cook at home, however, you have control over how you salt. You probably add a lot less salt, too, because chefs and cooks use salt to enhance the flavor of the food, not to use it as a preservative or to mask other flavors.

Harold McGee, author of the On Food and Cooking : The Science & Lore of the Kitchen and author of the New York Times column “The Curious Cook” recently catalogued the myriad kinds, shapes, and colors of salt in his column. In the column, he shed some light on the variation, tastes, and compositions of this diverse mineral.

If you cook most of your food, you might not be consuming too much salt. As Harold McGee writes, “salt is the rare ingredient that can enhance the flavor of pretty much any food it’s sprinkled on.” Not only does it make chocolate taste more chocolate-y, and zucchini taste more zucchini-y, according to McGee “salt in small amounts enhances our perception of sweetness and sourness while suppressing bitterness.” Pretty good for a naturally occurring mineral!

What’s your go-to salt?

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