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About the auther: Lindsay MacNab is a foodie, health nut and deep dish pizza addict from the wonderful windy city of Chicago. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Diet & Exercise from Iowa State University. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a dietetic intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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H ealthy Table*

Salt, Find Your Flavor

Tasty Homemade Salts Add More, For Less!

By Lindsay MacNab
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W hile salt may be an original ingredient and common kitchen staple, it is anything but basic. This mighty crystal has the ability to add a superb burst of flavor to any dish or balance sweetness in a delicious dessert recipe. Salt is also used for creating firm texture, enhancing vibrant colors and aiding in food preservation.

Salt occurs naturally in many foods, including meat and milk; however, packaged and canned goods often contain an overabundance of salt for shelf-stability and taste. Recently published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting daily salt intake to 2,300 milligrams daily (1). For individuals with prehypertension or hypertension, 1,500 milligrams is recommended to help lower blood pressure (1).

Despite national recommendations to reduce salt intake, salt is an essential nutrient that must be consumed in order to maintain health. Salt plays many key roles in the human body, including involvement in muscle and nerve contraction, fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure (2). Since salt is found in nearly everything Americans eat, it should only be added to recipes and sprinkled on table food in small quantities.

Not all salt is the same. Different types of salt are used for a variety of purposes both inside and outside of the kitchen. Check out this shopper’s guide to buying salt at your local grocery store (3-4):

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Table Salt
Contents: Sodium chloride (NaCl) + anti-caking agents + iodine
Sodium: 581 mg per ¼ teaspoon
Description: Fine, white crystals;
Flavor: Fast-dissolving, Bitter, metallic
Use: Cooking, baking, seasoning
Highly processed to remove trace minerals
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Kosher Salt
Contents: NaCl but limited to no anti-caking agents
Sodium: 480 mg per ¼ teaspoon
Description: Coarse, irregular white flakes; fast-dissolving
Flavor: “Clean,” less pungent than table salt
Use: Cooking, seasoning, recipes calling for “coarse salt”
Commonly used to top pretzels and rim glasses; Two main types: 1) used for koshering meat, 2) certified “kosher”
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Sea Salt
Contents: NaCl + trace minerals
Sodium: 590 mg per ¼ teaspoon
Description: Ranges from coarse to extra fine irregular crystals; color variety; slower-dissolving
Flavor: Pure, “clean,” dependent on natural impurities
Use: Cooking, seasoning
Less processed salt, made by dehydrating sea water
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Rock Salt
Contents: NaCl + trace minerals + other
Sodium: N/A
Description: Large, chunky, non-uniform crystals; color variety; slower dissolving
Flavor: Not usually intended for eating
Use: De-icing roads, making ice cream, softening water, etc.
Also known as “halite”
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Canning & Pickling Salt
Contents: NaCl
Sodium: 590 mg per ¼ teaspoon
Description: Fine, white crystals; Fast-dissolving
Flavor: “Clean,” concentrated taste
Use: Brining, food preservation, marinades
Perfect salt choice for brining pickles or sauerkraut, contains no additives

Tired of using plain table salt in your recipes? Spice up your salt by creating your own! Homemade flavored salt is simple, trendy and can enhance the taste of any dish. Fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and/or sage can be purchased at your local farmers’ market and are some of many ideal ingredients for creating delicious bursts of flavor. Other ingredients such as dehydrated vegetables, citrus fruit zest, dried lavender or red pepper flakes also serve as perfect mix-ins. If you are trying to limit sodium, cooking with flavored salts may be a better alternative to table salt, as less may be needed in order to achieve maximum flavor. Additionally, creating recipes with kosher salt may be beneficial, as it contains less sodium per ¼ teaspoon compared to other salt varieties. See below for a unique recipe on how to make your own flavored salt.

Homemade Herb Salt

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Ingredients:
3 cups loosely packed fresh herbs of your choice (e.g., basil, dill, rosemary)
½ cup coarse salt (e.g., coarse sea salt, kosher salt)

Instructions:
1. Wash herbs and remove coarse stems and discolored leaves. Dry completely.
2. Place herbs and salt in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely ground.
3. Pour the herb salt in a tightly sealed container and place in the refrigerator for seven-14 days, or until the flavors meld. Gently shake each day.

Additional Helpful Tips:

Don't have a food processor? No worries! Simply grab a knife and cutting board. Coarsely chop herbs, then add the salt on top. Continue to chop the salt and herbs together until a coarse, uniform mixture is created. Since the salt in this recipe acts as a preservative, the herbs should last about six months or longer. Pour into a mini glass jar, wrap with a colorful bow, and you have yourself a perfectly packaged gift that is sure to please any foodie. Use homemade herb salt in any recipe that can use an extra flavor punch. Rub herb salt on roasts or grilled meats, lightly sprinkle in soups/stews or on
roasted vegetables, and much more.

Sodium Content: 480-590 mg per ¼ teaspoon (dependent on type of salt used)

Recipe Adapted From: Jill Winger, The Prairie Homestead blog http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2015/07/homemade-herb-salt-recipe.html

Lindsay MacNab is a foodie, health nut and deep dish pizza addict from the wonderful windy city of Chicago. She was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Diet & Exercise from Iowa State University. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a dietetic intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Following her internship, Lindsay aspires to combine her passion for nutrition, writing and health and wellness into a nutrition communications career that she will love for a lifetime.

References

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines 2015-2020 executive summary. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/executive-summary Accessed February 15, 2016.

2. Morton Salt Company. Sodium: an essential dietary nutrient. http://www.mortonsalt.com/article/sodium-an-essential-dietary-nutrient Accessed February 15, 2016.

3. SaltWorks. Gourmet salt guide. http://www.saltworks.us/salt_info/si_gourmet_reference.asp#KosherSalt Accessed February 15, 2016.

4. Real Simple. Six types of salt and how to use them. http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/six-types-salt Accessed February 15, 2016.

5. United States Department of Agriculture Agriculture Research Service’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Basic report, 02047, salt, table. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/296?man=&lfacet=&count= &max=35&qlookup=table+salt&offset=&sort=&format=Abridged&reportfmt=other&rptfrm=&ndbno=&nutrient1=&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=&totCount=&measureby=&_action_show=Apply+Changes&Qv=1&Q687=0.25&Q688=1&Q689=1&Q690=1 Accessed February 22, 2016.

6. Morton Salt Company. Culinary salt. http://www.mortonsalt.com/home-category/culinary-salts/>Accessed February 22, 2016.

7. Jill Winger from The Prairie Homestead blog. Homemade herb salt recipe. Recipe adapted from http://www.theprairie homestead.com/2015/07/homemade-herb-salt-recipe.html> Accessed February 15, 2016.
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