Take a bite of an apple. Drink a spoonful of soup. That apple might not be sweet enough, and the soup not salty enough. If we feel the need to douse everything with hot sauce, or add spoonfuls of sugar to already sweetened granola, chances are we might have some mineral or vitamin deficiencies. This is pretty common – I can fall of the sure-fruit-is-sweet-enough-band-wagon more often than I care to share. I find that when my tolerance for sweet tastes goes up, I need more…and more and more. Our tolerances for tastes can vary according to what our body is in need of nutritionally. Let’s take salt, for example:
First off: we need sodium! Electrolytes help to balance fluid levels in the body (upwards of 60% of the body is water – what do our blood cells swim in? What do we sweat out?), help our muscles function properly and support cell membrane integrity. Ever heard of people “drowning from the inside” when they drink too much water (perhaps during an endurance sports event)? It happens. Not enough salt replacement in the body as the body sweats and looses water and salt, but water is consumed out of balance with sodium equals trouble.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one teaspoon of salt contains just over 2,300 mg of sodium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or even less (closer to 1,500) if you’re 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. On average (average, my friends), we consume close to 3,500 mg per day of sodium. This sodium can be hidden in any food, any food product and especially in foods that lack substantial, natural yummy flavors on their own.
That being said, we are all very different, and the way our bodies process anything is very individualized. Whenever I have had too much sodium (and it really depends on the quality of sodium) my hands, under the eyes and feet swell up like crazy. I guess I am a good absorber. There is a significant change in this affect, however, when I take a pinch of and sprinkle my food with high quality sea or Himalayan salt – and still get that savory punch I need. I have accumulated a little collection of pretty awesome salts; Australian Murray River pink salt, Hawaiian volcanic pink salt, celtic sea salt (Maldon), and often sprinkle foods with gomasio (a seaweed – nourishing and salty – and sesame seed mixture). Natural salts such as these, which haven’t been processed or stripped of nutrients only to be iodized (or fortified, kinda like cereals are fortified with iron or calcium) are essential to helping us retain and actually absorb the water we drink. Ask me about my “WATER!” handout – tips on how to actually get those 8-10 glasses of water per day without having to hit the bathroom every 15 minutes).
Only need a teense!
Anticipating that question on the cost of these “fancy salts”: this is the same discussion that I have about good quality food – what you are skimping on in quality now you might very well pay (10 fold) in health concerns tomorrow. If you can’t grow it in your backyard, make it in your kitchen or essentially harvest it from the sea, maybe it doesn’t know how to actually nourish your body? Additionally, I received these salts as gifts, never actually diving in to spend $10 on a small box of salt myself. However, I don’t use as much salt or condiments (unrefined salts are SUPER flavorful and potent) and I have become sort of obsessed with the different flavors each salt actually has, the colors and the textures and the amount of salt I actually don’t need for a whole pot of soup. Some of the crystals in their natural state are shaped into these incredibly symmetrical pyramid shapes and flakes. Super cool.
- Ketchup: 160 mg of salt in one tablespoon (someone might have about 2 tbsp? And what if you are at a Giant’s game – those garlic fries are loaded with sodium)
- Asiago cheese: 454 mg in one ounce (might have 2-3 slices)
- Milk (non-fat): 127 mg in one cup (the more fat the milk has, the less sodium – drink 1-2%!)
- Papa John’s “The Works” pizza with crust: 875 mg in one slice
The above totals 1,616 mg, upwards of 2,230 if having more than measured. This doesn’t account for any coffee drinks, juices or other beverages outside of water we might have throughout the day, snacks, another meal or anything sweet we might be craving at the end of the day, since we aren’t eating anything very nourishing. This day can spiral even more out of control if we are eating on the run, too late at night, if we eat like this daily and if we are stressed, overworked and our immune system is suppressed. And since we aren’t making that pizza ourselves, we don’t have control over the added salt or flavorings, or quality of the meat or toppings that are being added.
This morning I wanted something sweet, but I wanted my favorite St. Benoit yogurt, as well (good fat and protein). I had some coconut sunflower seed granola (not overly sweetened, good source of protein) and it needed a kick. I pinched and sprinkled some coconut palm sugar/fleur de sel that I bought yesterday at Berkeley Bowl – perfect natural flavor enhancer, and all you need it a pinch.
Food for thought: maybe we aren’t as much an obese nation as we are a nutrient deficient nation. Perhaps now kale sounds more appealing…with a pinch and sprinkle of sea salt!