You are here: HomeCooking TipsA Word About Salt
People always ask me about salt in recipes, they are worried about sodium intake,  and my response is that virtually all the salt that one consumes in the US these days comes from processed,  pre-packaged, and  fast  foods. The amount that you use in home cooking is minute by comparison.   Our over consumption of sodium in this country is mostly from these processed foods.  Research suggests we get up to 75 percent of our daily salt intake from processed foods and restaurant meals. In fact, processed and packaged foods have so much sodium that most of us end up eating 8 to 11 grams of salt a day -- more than twice what's recommended.  This over consumption causes our palates to be come desensitized as too much  salt actually supresses your sense of taste.

Humans have an "adaptive palate". That means that the palate can adjust to the types of foods one eats over a period of time. Adjustment from a high salt diet to a low salt diet takes 4 - 5 weeks. Over that period of time, what used to taste "normal" will begin to taste excessively salty.  Salt is an essential in putting a flavor in the food when it is to be consumed by diners with desensitized palates.  That's why people who have gone to a less salt or salt-free diet say they experience restaurant food as too salty.  Restaurants still cook for the general public, some are being more judicious in their use of salt and that is to be applauded.

Salt ShakerIf you have made the decision to use less salt in your diet, the first things that you should be aware of is how much pre-packaged and prepared foods you use.  I still use some in my cooking simply because they are convenient and a time saver.  But I do not build recipes and meals around pre-packed foods.  As I have stated in recipes and tips, I have no problem with using prepared stocks or some soups, but I reiterate to NOT add salt until the end of cooking because of the chance of over-salting your dish.

People who cook for themselves eat much less salt than they did in previous centuries when there was no refrigeration and salt was the primary way of preserving food. We still eat many of these preserved foods, like cheese, bacon, sausage, cured fish and sauerkraut, because it turns out we like them. Today they are less salty because we can refrigerate them.

As far as processed and fast foods go,  the amount of salt is often staggering. Any commercial taste expert knows that salt, sugar and fat are key to consumer response.  There is no hard and fast evidence of salt’s harmfulness to all alike; some bodies require more than others and all require some.   Nevertheless, there is a big difference in salt content between prepared foods and freshly cooked foods.

Not using enough salt and using insufficient heat when sautéing, are probably the two major reasons why home-cooked foods are so often bland. Salt is even crucial in desserts, when a pinch in a chocolate cake, for example, heightens the underlying flavors of the chocolate. Salt is crucial to flavor development and is an important tool in any cooks repertoire.  But the staggering amounts of salt used in modern foods is completely unnecessary and unhealthy.

Salt is not bad, it is not the enemy, it is the ingredient that makes our foods savory and delicious, so don't be afraid of it.  Don't think you have to resign yourself to bland food for the rest of your life, you don't.  Salt is an essential ingredient to life and your palate will tell you how much is right for you.

This is just one more reason to TASTE as you cook.   The more you cook for yourself and the less prepared foods you eat, the more sensitive to the taste of salt you  become and you will find yourself moderating to a salt intake level that is healthier for your body.  Your salt taste will tell you when enough is enough.  Your body will naturally regulate your salt consumption.

Especially when you use any prepared soup stocks or bases, you should TASTE as you cook.   This is one of the main reasons I tell you that if you use a prepared ingredient in your cooking, do not add salt until the end of cooking the dish.  TASTE will tell you if it is needed or not.