In Salt

Last week I spoke about the taste of bitterness and the benefits of eating bitter foods. This week I thought we would continue on the same line and discuss another taste – Salt. Salt is surrounded by a lot of controversy and confusion. Many research studies state it will harden your arteries and lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. The only problem is, most of these studies have been carried out on normal table salt. Salt that has been highly processed and that has become completely unnatural.

Table salt has been dried at very high temperatures and bleached to give it a uniform colour. Anti-caking agents are added to stop the salt clumping together and allowing it to flow freely. Salt naturally contains many trace minerals which are denatured in this process. Avoid this stuff like the plague.

The salt I use is a hand harvested sea salt. One that is harvested in wide open beds from sea water with the water being evaporated by the sun and sea breeze. What you end up with there is a crystalline looking product, off white, tends to clump a little bit and still has a slightly wet feel to it depending on how well it has been dried. The trace minerals are all intact as there has been no unnatural heat applied to it which makes it quite a nutritious food additive. As far as the artery hardening or high blood pressure and heart disease go, this type of salt has no link to it at all. In fact it actually helps with digestion in the stomach by aiding in the production of stomach acids and helping the absorption of food in the gastrointestinal tract.

As runners, we should all be adding a certain amount of salt to our foods. Salt is so essential to our bodies as it helps regulate the amount of water in our system. I’m sure you have tasted your sweat on numerous occasions and you would know that it is quite salty. This loss of salt really needs to be replenished. In fact if you struggle to rehydrate and always feel a bit thirsty, this could be a sign of low salt levels. Too little salt can cause a number of issues from stomach cramps at one end of the spectrum to death at the extreme other end with hyponatremia. A situation where the salts in your system become too diluted, which has caused the death of a number of runners in races.

So how much should we have in our diets? You will varying suggestions but it really comes down to what you can tolerate. I like to add a pinch to my lunch and dinner along with a small amount added to my drink bottle. It really is a personal thing how much you have and with food, it should be just enough so you get a slight taste of it. When added to your water, I really don’t like to taste it at all. Just a pinch to a litre of water is fine. You may notice it the first time you try it, but you will soon get used to it and eventually not notice it at all.

Speaking of taste, if you have been using table salt all your life, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. The taste of this stuff is very different to what you are used to. To me, table salt has a slightly metallic taste to it and not very pleasant at all. Whereas the organic sea salt has a much fresher taste to it that is quite pleasant.

There are only a few places around the world that produce the really top quality sea salt. The main ones you will find are either France or New Zealand. They both vary slightly in colour and taste being quite different in their mineral makeup. But the one I prefer is the New Zealand variety (New Zealand Natural Sea Salt). Being so far from any mainland country and generally quite a pristine and clean place, there are far less toxins in the water around there, so you can almost guarantee a superior product.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Run well.

Chris O’Driscoll.



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