Early civilisations developed after the discovery of fire and salt.  Salt became a very significant commodity for us and the word ‘salary’ actually means payment in salt!  Explorers would carry salt to present to the tribes they encountered.
The importance of salt also goes back to pre human times.  Infact during pregnancy, growing babies repeat the evolutionary process of life evolving in water.  Our salty bloodstreams also replicate this saline environment.
Therefore salt is a critical feature of our make up.  What then are the positive features of salt as I’ve heard so much negative press about salt?

Why do we need salt?
Salt used in cooking helps the body absorb the foods’ nutrients.
Good quality sea salt enhances the flavour, nutrition and digestibility of our food.
Salt controls the amount of water in our bodies, maintains the ph of the blood and helps in muscle contraction.  The sodium and chloride that make up salt are electroytes.  These are minerals which dissolve in water and carry an electric charge.  Hence salt is involved in the transmission of nerve signals.

What is so bad about salt?
Too much salt intake can take the kidneys out of balance and lead to high blood pressure, water retention and headaches.  Excessive salt consumption has been linked with stomach cancer and other conditions.

Too much salt can make your cells, muscles and blood vessels tight and lose their flexibility.

Balancing salt..
Overuse
Consuming too much salt can make you feel thirsty and can also increase your cravings for sweet food and for overeating.  Try reducing your salt and salty products intake and see how this may effect your portion sizes.

Your kidneys may become dry and tight if you are enjoying too much salt, and this reduces their ability to cleanse the blood properly.  This can be reflected in the region below your eyes, and it may become dark in colour here.

Water retention in the body is often caused by eating too much salt.  This happens because the salt attracts fluid and holds it in a particular area.   You can tell if you are retaining water as excess fluid will accumulate in certain areas.  Your eyes may become puffy or perhaps your ankles are swollen.  Bloating can be addressed if you are careful about your salt intake.

Underuse
Indications of consuming too little salt are a lacking in vitality and sluggishness and inability to make decisions.  Craving hard crunchy snack foods is also a signal that your diet may not contain enough salt.

How much to use?
Generally the average intake is half to two thirds of a teaspoon a day.
Be aware of the huge prevalence of salt hidden in processed foods and ready meals in addition to the salt you may use at the table

What salt should I use?
Conventional table salt has many of its minerals removed and artificial ingredients and chemicals like bleach are added for the white colour.  So table salt is heavily refined, it is also heated to very high temperatures and then flash cooled.

Sea salt on the other hand is derived from the ocean and has been naturally sun dried.
Or other natural salts are mined from the earth.
You may have heard of ‘fleur de sel’ (from France)  – this is a hand harvested, high quality sea salt.

How should I use salt?
A pinch of sea salt should be used within the cooking.

Grains
For example when cooking rice and other grains, add a pinch of sea salt at the start.  This will help harness a wonderful flavour as well as enable the ph of the dish to be more balanced since the salt alkalises the acid forming effect of many grains.

Vegetables
Add a pinch of sea salt to the boiling water you are using to blanch vegetables.  This will help the cells of the vegetables contract and therefore mitigate any loss of vitamins and minerals in the water.  You know when this has happened as the water turns a green brown colour!

Fruit
If you are stewing or even baking fruit, add a very small pinch of sea salt to the mixture.  This counters the acidity of the fruit and its simple sugar nature and will help make the dish have a more strengthening quality.

Once your food arrives at the table, if you still feel like a more salty flavour try enjoying some condiments with your meal.

Gomasio
This condiment is prepared by grinding salt and sesame together.  Here each grain of salt is covered with the natural oil of the seeds.  The sesame seeds are a rich source of calcium and amino acids. This delicate balance of salt and oil helps to prevent thirst, neutralises the blood and strengthens the nervous system.  Gomasio is also good to relieve some headaches (in the forehead area), toothache and menstrual cramps.

Ingredients:
Sea salt
Sesame seeds

The ratio of salt to sesame seeds is unique for you.  Generally adults may have a ratio of 1tsp salt to 15 tsp sesame and children enjoy a ratio of 1 tsp salt to 30 tsp sesame.

Preparation:
Dry roast the sea salt and put in a mortar or suribachi.  Grind to a fine powder.  Roast the sesame seeds and keep moving them to avoid burning.  Roast for 5-10 minutes until they give off a nutty aroma.  Add seeds to the ground salt in the suribachi.  Grind the seeds until about three quarters of the seeds are crushed.
Enjoy sprinkled over your meal!