I consider salt one of the most dangerous, addictive and unhealthy food additives out there.
Zillions of prepared and manufactured foods contain artery-bursting amounts of it. And salt appears prominently in the ingredients list of a frighteningly wide range of foods, from breakfast cereals to, believe it or not, Ben & Jerry's ice cream. (I'm totally serious about the Ben & Jerry's--take a look for yourself!)
And of course, in practically every dinner table in homes all around the world, a little shaker full of the stuff sits at the ready, so we can add still more salt to our food.
Sure, salt is an important nutrient--in small doses. We should be consuming it in daily quantities that are a fraction of what you'd get from a mere handful of Doritos. The truth is, a diet with generous servings of fruits, veggies and legumes will contain sufficient sodium for the average person. That means you don't need to add any extra salt to your food at all.
However, because salt is so overused in so much of our food, most of us have unknowingly adapted to consuming far too much of it.
But first, let me ask a question to readers: Why do you think salt is overused in prepared and manufactured foods?
Sadly, one of the primary reasons is it makes you want to eat more.
Essentially, salty food begets a desire for more salty food. That salty kick from your very first Dorito simply makes you want another. And it's why food companies design their foods--even sweet foods like ice cream and cookies--with high salt levels. Adding extra salt is by far the easiest and cheapest way to make any food hyperpalatable.
And of course it's no coincidence that when you eat more, the food industry sells more. Please keep this in mind the next time you reach into your wallet to pay for that extra-large bag of overpriced, branded salty snacks.
But there's still more behind the overuse of this highly palatable seasoning. Because salt is such a "loud" spice, it drowns out other, more subtle tastes. And because it's so easy for the human brain and human palate to adapt to salty flavors, overly-salted food quickly conditions your palate away from being able to detect and enjoy these subtle flavors and tastes.
Thus, the more salt you consume, the more bland and tasteless regular food becomes. Unfortunately, most consumers end up completing the circle by biasing their diets and tastes towards still more salty foods as a result.
Believe it or not, there's some good news buried here in this post, and here it is: Sure, the human sense of taste quickly adapts to salt. But, thankfully, it can also just as easily adapt away from salt. So how do you resist the siren call of sodium chloride?
First, take a leap with me here, and try to go a full week without salt. That's right: one week. Seven days. It's not that long!
Take a break from salty snacks, and avoid any food that lists salt or sodium chloride prominently in its ingredients. Take a break from restaurant food, which is the primary source of some of the most oversalted, hyperpalatable food out there. And, obviously, remove your salt shaker from your dinner table and hide it somewhere.
For the first day or two you'll experience an interesting paradox: everything will taste like nothing! Be patient and don't lose heart. Within a few days, your palate will begin to de-accustom itself to sodium. It will return to how it used to be and how it should be: sensitive to subtlety and a wide range of tastes and flavors. You'll start to detect flavors and tones in food that weren't apparent to you before. For lack of a better phrase, you'll begin to hear the soft notes of your food once you remove the deafeningly loud taste of salt.
This process may take a while, and it might involve an adaptation period where food appears to taste comparatively bland, but believe me, this process is truly worth it.
Why? Because, regular, normal-tasting food is actually really good. And it's a sheer pleasure to enjoy eating without having to face down overly salted, hyperpalatable foods. You won't find it quite so difficult to fight off the urge to overeat, and you'll derive that much more pleasure from natural, healthy food.
Before you know it, you'll have developed a much more sensitive palate. Foods that once seemed boring will taste and feel more complex, more subtle and more interesting. And salt itself will finally become what it really is: a loud, excessive flavor that's massively overused in restaurants and throughout the food industry.
Readers, what's your take on salt? And have you ever gone on a salt fast?
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