Salt in the History
It is impossible to overestimate the historical significance of salt, which has been used by humans for thousands of years. Because of its ability to keep food from spoiling in the past, salt was highly prized and sought after. Salt was essential in keeping perishable food items from spoiling before the development of modern refrigeration techniques. When food was scarce, people would use salt to cure meats, fish, and vegetables so they could be kept for a long time and serve as a reliable source of nutrition.
Beyond serving as a preservative, salt has been essential to human culture and the economy. In many societies, salt was seen as a valuable resource and even utilised as money. The ability to manufacture or obtain salt evolved into a sign of riches and authority. For instance, the word "salary" is derived from the fact that soldiers in ancient Rome got a portion of their pay in salt. Additionally, salt has long been known to improve food's flavour. It serves as a flavour enhancer, bringing out the natural flavours of various substances. In the past, when there were few food options, salt might make bland or boring meals more appetising and enjoyable.
Salt in Modern Days
For a variety of reasons, salt usage is still important and common in modern society. Enhancing flavour is one of its main functions. A well-balanced flavour profile can be produced by adding salt and bringing out the natural flavours of the foods. It is frequently employed in cooking to bring out the savoury flavours in meats, give sauces and soups depth, and balance out the sweetness or acidity in different recipes. Additionally, salt has the power to mask bitter flavours, improving the palatability of some foods.
In addition to enhancing flavour, salt is essential for modern food safety and preservation. Even though the need for salt for preservation has been greatly decreased by refrigeration, it still has its uses. Meats like bacon, gammon and salami are frequently preserved and cured with salt. It aids in preventing bacterial growth, hence extending the shelf life of these perishable goods. In addition, salt is needed to make pickles, sauerkraut, and other foods that are fermented since it promotes the fermentation process and serves as a natural preservative.
Salt is frequently used as a flavouring, preservative, and texturizer in processed and packaged goods. It improves the flavour and shelf life of goods, aids in moisture retention, and may even assist in determining the structure and texture of some meals. But consuming too many processed meals loaded with salt can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular illnesses. As a result, it's critical to pay attention to the amount of salt in packaged foods and choose lower-sodium options whenever available. Salt is still an essential component of contemporary cooking. It is a vital element in many culinary practices due to its capacity to enhance flavours, aid in food preservation, and play a part in food processing. To maintain a healthy diet, it's crucial to use salt sparingly and pay attention to your overall sodium intake.
How to Practise Less Salt in Cooking
Use spice blends instead of salt
Ingredients such as cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, or chilli powder can be used to create your own spice blends. These mixtures can be used to flavour vegetables or meats, adding a flavorful kick without the use of salt. Spice is also safe for consumption by many, including babies. Other than that, it can make mealtime more enjoyable and encourage a diverse and balanced diet as they grow. They can transform ordinary meals into culinary delights and make your cooking more exciting and enjoyable.
Additionally, using spice blends can be a great way to reduce sodium intake and promote a healthier lifestyle, as excessive salt consumption has been linked to health concerns. By relying on spice blends for flavour, you can create delicious and satisfying meals while reducing the reliance on salt and its potential negative effects. So, next time you're cooking, reach for a spice blend to elevate your dishes!
Use flavourful marinades and dressings with citrus ingredients
Using marinades and dressings without salt can be a wonderful way to add flavour and enhance the taste of your dishes. Salt-free marinades and dressings offer a healthier alternative while still providing delicious flavours. When preparing salt-free marinades, focus on incorporating acidic ingredients like citrus juices such as lemon and lime, vinegars, balsamic and apple cider vinegar. These acidic components help tenderise meat and provide tangy flavours. Enhance the marinade with a variety of herbs and spices to infuse the ingredients with aromatic notes. You can also include a touch of sweetness with ingredients like honey.
By using salt-free marinades and dressings, you can enjoy the vibrant flavours of your dishes without the need for excessive sodium. It's a healthier choice that allows you to explore natural flavours of the ingredients.
Choose natural umami-rich ingredients such as mushroom
Umami is known as the "fifth taste" and adds a savoury depth to dishes. Food that has umami-rich ingredients are mushrooms, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, or fermented products like kimchi. Choosing natural umami-rich ingredients like mushrooms instead of salt is a wonderful way to elevate the savoury flavours in your dishes.
Mushrooms possess a distinct umami taste that adds depth and richness to food, making them an excellent alternative to salt. Their unique flavour profile can help satisfy your taste buds without relying solely on sodium. Additionally, mushrooms offer versatility in cooking, as they come in various types and textures. Whether you opt for the earthy flavour of cremini mushrooms, the meaty texture of portobello mushrooms, or the intense umami taste of shiitake mushrooms, incorporating mushrooms into your recipes can enhance the overall taste experience.
Use mushrooms in a range of dishes, such as sautés, stir-fries, soups, stews, pasta sauces, or as a topping for pizzas and burgers. They can be cooked down to release their flavours, combined with other ingredients to create complex umami profiles, or even used as a meat substitute in vegetarian or vegan dishes. By utilising mushrooms as a natural umami-booster, you can reduce your reliance on salt while still enjoying delicious, flavorful meals.
Slowly reduce salt over time
Reducing salt intake gradually over time is a practical and sustainable approach to developing healthier eating habits. Start by reading food labels and becoming aware of the sodium content in packaged and processed foods. This will help you make informed choices and opt for lower-sodium alternatives. When cooking at home, gradually decrease the amount of salt you add to your recipes. Start by reducing it by a quarter or a half and continue to decrease gradually over time.
With patience and persistence, your taste buds will adjust to the reduced salt levels, and you'll gradually develop a preference for less salty food.
Written by: Alia Adrina Asri
Love Earth Nutritionist
BSc Nutrition (Hons)