…But the trouble is, we take much more than just a pinch.
About ten times more than we need, actually; and if you eat processed food, it’ll be a lot more, plus sugar and various additives. That doesn’t matter too much if it’s only now and then, but excess salt can lead, over time, to high blood pressure, chronic dehydration and various other problems.
So why not just cut it out? At first your food will taste very bland, but give it a couple of weeks and your palate will adjust. That’s what converts will tell you, and it’s more or less true, but humans have always valued salt for good reason. It’s a flavour enhancer, and without it, some of the sensual pleasure of eating is lost. Some foods are savoury enough, but others – particularly beans, pulses and grains – need a bit of help to make them appetising. So what can you do?
The good news is that there are lots of flavour enhancers out there.
Trials have shown that if you reduce salt and increase pepper in your cooking, people find the food just as good; and pepper is good for your digestion and your circulation. What’s more, there are many more varieties than the black pepper – Piper nigrum – we use most often. From pimento to long pepper, each has its own subtle qualities.
Garlic is another flavour enhancer, and so – in moderation – are other warming spices like chilli, mustard and horseradish. Anything that overlaps with the taste of the food you are cooking will also intensify the flavour, so if you use fennel seeds with fennel, celery seeds with celeriac and so on, you won’t need so much salt. And when you start to play with taste combinations, herbs and spices that wake up your taste buds, salt becomes a very minor player in the taste orchestra.