A Healthier Substitute for Common Salt?

I like to limit my salt intake. I achieve this mainly by limiting the amount of processed food that I buy. Processed foods tend to be loaded up with salt, sugar and fat. Not particularly good for us in excess. By making nearly all our meals from scratch, using vegetables from our own organic garden, we can be fairly certain of what is in most of our food. So we can limit our salt, fat and sugar intake. Salt tends to cause hypertension and hardening of the arteries Something to be avoided. I was brought up in a household where my mother used very little salt. The only salt in the house that I can remember was ‘Blooms’ celery salt, that came in a cardboard box. it was used spearingly at table. So I’m used to the slightly bland, less stimulating tastes of the likes of Tuscan bread and cultured, unsalted butter.

Perhaps this is why I have always had low blood pressure. At least I did. I used to get up in the morning and feel a bit dizzy when I stood up after getting out of bed and sometimes had to sit down again for a while, before heading to the bathroom, waiting for my blood pressure to catch up. Once in the shower, I would get a bit dizzy again as the warm water relaxed my blood vessels and my pressure would drop again. Sometimes I would start to see stars circulating in my vision. Just like in the cartoon – only these ones weren’t coloured, just grey. I didn’t enjoy any of this and mentioned it to my family doctor on one of the rare occasions that I ever went, as I have never really had a need to go. He told me that there was no treatment for low blood pressure and that I should be careful. Especially when driving first thing in the morning, because when he tested my blood pressure it was something like 60 over 90. He asked me if I was OK? I said that I was. I felt normal. He looked a bit shocked and warned me that I should be careful that I didn’t pass out unexpectedly.

15 years ago, I decided to start taking a little salt in my diet, and for 10 years I took a small amount of common salt each week. Now, 10 years on, my blood pressure is up to normal. So I stopped taking ordinary salt a few years ago. These days I use a salt substitute that I mix up my self. It has a small amount of common salt in it, but is mostly composed of vegetable matter.

I buy a readily available brand of vegetable salt called ‘trocomare’ (250 gram pkt). This seems to be about half sodium chloride and half vegetable powder. I empty this into a large mixing bowl. To this I add a 500 gram packet of kelp powder, plus 100 grams of ‘K’ salt – Potassium Chloride, some powdered celery seed, if I have it, and one or two small packets of Sumac 30 grams. This is all mixed up and put into sealed containers, to keep it dry, ready for use. The kelp powder has a small amount of sea salt in it, but most importantly, it contains iodine.

Australian soils are quite low in iodine, being very ancient and well weathered, This is especially prevalent in the South Eastern States. Our ancient soils have not had the benefit of massive glacial activity pushing finely ground volcanic rock dust with it that would eventually degrade into deep, rich, fertile soils. So our soils around here are depleted of iodine.

For so many years our nation used glass milk bottles to deliver the daily milk. These bottles were re-cycled, washed, sterilised with iodine and re-used. The infinitesimal remnants of iodine that were left in the glass from the sterilisation were just enough to keep all Australians who drank milk supplied with their daily dose of Iodine. We didn’t have any trouble with iodine deficiency here in the cities, where glass milk bottles were used. Since we have economically irrationalised ourselves, and milk is delivered in plastic, or plastic-coated cardboard, now we are developing an iodine deficiency again.

This iodine deficiency was first noted here back in 1900. There have even been parliamentary inquiries into the mandatory addition of micro amounts of iodine into general food stuffs, such as bread, through the introduction of iodised salt. This is a practice that has been adopted in New Zealand, and  possibly Germany and Switzerland as well as far as I understand it. But I could be wrong on this.

I choose to buy iodised salt when I do buy salt, but it isn’t very often, as a small packet lasts a very long time because I try not to use very much of it. Most of it tends to get used mixed with lemon skins to scour and clean my copper cooking pots and pans. It does a lovely job. Every pan gets a good going over at least once every few weeks. It keeps them looking bright and shiny.

What is the right amount of salt? Salt is certainly addictive. once you get used to that spike in taste, everything else seems to be very bland. I used to know someone who added salt to everything. He didn’t like my food, as it was too bland for him. When he made porridge in the morning, he added so much salt that I couldn’t eat it. It was just too salty for me. when he made a low salt batch the next morning for me, he couldn’t eat it, as it tasted too bland for his taste. He had to add a lot more salt into his bowl. He said that he just couldn’t taste it.

So is salt good or bad for you? I don’t know. Life is a big one-way gamble. I’ve put my chips on the low salt option. It wasn’t too hard to do, as I was brought up that way. It seems normal to me. There just might be something to be said for blandness. It might help me appreciate the subtleties of delicate flavours? I certainly taste the stronger flavours when I get them. And you know, I don’t really like very salty foods. They just taste too salty to me, so I tend to avoid them.

Everything in moderation!

I’m grateful that I’m able to make these choices.