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November, 15 2018

Salt - it's all a matter of dose!


Joanna @JdeV Edinburgh West End store

Jan de Vries Archives

Too much salt can have a negative impact on our health and can affect how well we taste foods. Here’s an article from our archives written by Jan de Vries on why too much salt can be a bad thing, and how we can cut down on our salt intake to benefit our health.

I sometimes wish that we could turn back the clock to when salt was first discovered. Long ago, salt was a rare commodity and I wish this were still the case.

Mostly, salt is added during preparation of food, yet many people still liberally shake more salt over their food on their plate, often before they have even tasted it. Salt, or sodium chloride, indeed has a place as a preservative, but it is also widely used as an extra treat for our taste buds. Indeed our brains have evolved to crave salt since it is essential for life, but too much can kill! A natural and balanced diet will provide all the salt we need so it is not at all sensible to add more. Excessive salt is known to cause fluid retention and, for people with a tendency to high blood pressure, it can be fatal.

An average person consumes about 13 grams – two and a half teaspoons – of salt per day. Two thirds of this is added to products by the food manufacturers. The rest is added during cooking or at the table. We certainly need salt, but not too much.

Dr Vogel and I once visited a group of people who had no salt intake at all. We discussed this and expressed our surprise, but when we saw that every day they ate a certain bulb, as we would eat potatoes or bread. That bulb, Harpagophytum – Devil’s claw – contained all the mineral salts these people needed.

All of us need some form of salt but up to 3 grams – half a teaspoon a day – should be sufficient. One only needs to look at the rise in heart disease, kidney problems and strokes to understand why I am shocked at the level of our salt intake. Please, try seriously to use less salt when cooking, and avoid adding extra salt when the food is in your plate. It is better to use a salt substitute, of which many exist, which will enhance the flavour of your food equally well, and possibly even better.

When buying food, check the labels carefully to see what is said about added salt. When making soup, please don’t use too much salt or salted meat. The number of Asian people with high blood pressure who consult me is shocking. I have concluded that this is most likely because of their use of soy sauce, which contains monosodium glutamate. Packaged food, such as tinned and packet soups, also contain a lot of salt.

If we try to reduce our intake of salt slowly, however, we will not miss it, and eventually we will discover that we can easily do without it; this will also help to keep our weight under control. The main reason for reducing our intake, however, is that it will be better for our health. It is a feeble excuse that salt is needed for its minerals. Sure, salt is essential for health, but the best sources of this mineral are fruit and vegetables. Salt is a health destroyer and in the United States it is said that the cause of death can often be directly accredited to excessive salt intake.

Salt definitely has a drying effect on the body and moreover it is a deadly, inorganic substance which contains very little goodness. It destroys the calcium in the body and, instead of giving our taste buds a treat, it apparently paralyses two hundred and sixty taste buds in the mouth. When table salt is absorbed it breaks down into sodium chloride, and becomes like a poison. This is why we become thirsty after eating salty food.

I am aware of my own weakness for salt but I can’t stress strongly enough the need to reduce our salt intake or banish it from the diet altogether. Man is a creature of habit and habits are difficult to break, but never impossible.

As a salt substitute, try Dr Vogel’s low-salt Herbamare. It is delicious with a distinctive flavour. It is mineral rich and contains fourteen fresh herbs. Dr Vogel has always put great emphasis on a restricted and sensible salt intake. It is very difficult to make a delicious sauce if salt is not permitted, but by using a little sea salt one will not come to too much harm.

Unfortunately, there are those who see health-conscious nutrition as dull and flavourless, when the opposite is the truth; because of the many seasonings and variety of flavourings available, these products allow for exciting culinary adventures. Plantaforce, for example, provides a good stock; it is derived from organically grown herbs and vegetables, is very rich in vitamin B, easy to digest and has a delicious taste.

Taking things with a pinch of salt is terribly important, but let this indeed be no more than a pinch. Salt is essential to keep us alive and well, but in excess it can and will kill us – it’s all a matter of dose!

So, there are a few reasons to avoid excess salt in our diet. We love cooking with A.Vogel’s Herbamare, a tasty substitute for salt that can be used in lots of dishes. Plantaforce is now available as Herbamare bouillon and is a great stock for soups and sauces, plus it’s vegan-friendly and gluten free!