Salt is good for you

Salt is good for you. Let’s not forget that. It’s not only good for you, it’s essential for life and, of course, it makes things taste better. Not everything, I’ll give you, but many things that need a lift by the use of something such as lemon or sugar or salt. Even the Romans knew how important it was; that’s why their soldiers were paid in salt giving rise to our word ‘salary’.

In fact most things contain salts of some sort. Anything that grows in the ground is going to have traces of salts in it. Any animal we eat is going to comprise salt as one of its natural ingredients. The reason we need to add salt is when the actual taste of the product itself is naturally low in taste or when we’ve combined ingredients in such a way as we make something rather bland. Ingredients can even actually cancel each other’s tastes out.

It’s due to its current bad reputation that I was so disappointed recently when visiting an elderly relative in hospital. The food he was given looked ok but was so bland as to be inedible – or at least it was to him. The hospital staff told me salt wasn’t allowed in the food. Why? Because salt’s not good for you they said. He was in his nineties and his blood pressure was so low it could hardly raise a smile. Even a bucket of salt wasn’t going to make his tension any hyper.

If the nurses don’t understand what chance have we got? The reason we end up eating too much salt is that we eat too much processed food and have no idea how much salt is actually in the stuff. But because the ingredients used are tasteless rubbish they need to be boosted by the addition of salt and sugar amongst other things.

Of course, the solution is to cook more of our own meals; an unlikely thing considering how few people can actually cook these days. But if we did we’d soon recognise that we were ladling in the salt along with a packet of butter or two.

For those of us that do cook, at least we can be sure that when we buy natural ingredients to put in our meals, it’s up to us how much salt we put in. We’re doing it, measuring it with a spoon or pinch, and so know if we’re getting a bit heavy handed with it.

However I was rather thrown the other day when, fancying a Bloody Mary (to which I’m rather partial), I bought some tomato juice. You know, in a carton found on the supermarket shelves, next to the orange juice and apple juice; apart from the fact they’re often made from concentrate you at least know they’re the full monty, the real thing. What you don’t expect is for them to be fully laden with salt. Through slightly bleary eyes – you have to understand I’d already drunk one Bloody Mary by now – I saw that the carton had printed on it, in large letters, “Tomato Juice” with alongside in smaller letters “with added salt”. And I quickly worked out, well reasonably quickly appreciating that I’d been drinking, that I was approaching a fifth of my government recommended daily allowance of salt jus from my drink!

It’d only take a cheap frozen supermarket pizza, the desire of which would be understandable after two large Bloody Marys, to make my blood pressure so high I’d explode.

Now I feel reasonably safe, because I’m guessing that salt-level guidelines are aimed at people who are prone to eating too much salt because they have a rubbish diet. I cook my own food and so think I’m ok when it comes to salt intake. But the only way I could think of lowering the amount of salt in my drink was to increase the amount of vodka which, again, might get me in trouble with those government guideline setters.

It’s dangerous out there. I think I’ll stick to neat vodka in future, just to be healthy.

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