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The Salt Problem: Every Body Needs It… But Not Too Much

The Salt Problem:  Every Body Needs It… But Not Too Much

We need salt for variety of reasons.  On a basic physiological level we need salt to regulate electrolyte balance, prevent dehydration and maintain cellular functions that allow us to survive. A body cannot go without salt, and throughout history access to salt has created wealth, and spawned many wars and revolutions.

The problem is, like many things, while some is necessary; too much may make us ill. Canadians have been over-consuming salt, with one 2004 study suggesting that the average Canadian regularly consumes twice the daily recommended amount.

Why We Need Salt

Salt is an effective binding agent, binding meat proteins as well as meat and fat together. Salt also increases the binding capacity of water during cooking, improving yields, texture and tenderness, and making foods more appealing and palatable.

Processors need salt to flavour foods, to preserve them, and to help bind them together. Salt was one of the first ingredients used in meat processing, creating stores of food to be set aside for harsher weather or leaner times – salted, dried meat.

Today salt is used to regulate and lower water activity.  Lowering water activity limits microbial growth, which is particularly important for dealing with pathogens like Listeria monocytogenesClostridium botulinumSalmonella and Escherichia coli.