The Salt Quandary

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Food and wine writer Ronald Holden recently took to task the common misconceptions about salt and its perceived ill-affect on our health.

We here at HandPicked Nation have been believers in the nutritional and flavor value of good, unrefined sea salt for a while, so it was nice to see another eloquent argument for the 'decriminalization' of true, unadalterated salt (no, we're not talking about the big blue cannisters of iodized table salt).

Ronald was prompted to write his article by the op-ed piece "Salt, We Misjudged You" that recently ran in the NYTimes.

Holden states:

The salt levels in modern processed foods don't hold a candle to the traditional salt-processed foods we used to eat and that are still consumed in many parts of the world. Salt consumption is considerably higher in the Mediterranean than the US, and nobody suggests that the Mediterranean diet "causes" heart disease. Quite the contrary.

That's the dirty little secret about the Mediterranean diet. The original, seven-country study that showed the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet, neglected to mention its very high salt content.

He goes on to cite a report that actually supports salt consumption as a means to improve one's overall health:

For example, the authors of a recent report on sodium levels in fast food failed to note that in many countries (the Mediterranean region, Asia), salt consumption is higher than in the United States and so is life expectancy and general health. Asian fish sauce and soy sauce, contain very high levels of sodium, but they don't seem to be harmful or detrimental to longevity. So why, we can only ask, do American scientists make Morton's salt the bogey-man?

I suggest that it's this country's Prohibitionist mentality. We see a problem like public drunkenness and outlaw liquor. (On the other hand, we don't respond to violent lawlessness by outlawing firearms.) We see obesity, and impose draconian measures to limit salt (or, in New York City, proposing to limit the serving size of sugary drinks).

We fail to recognize that salt has a valuable function, not just as a preservative of foods like fish and meat but as a vital ingredient that enhances the taste of food.

Yet again, it seems, our collective inability to deal in moderate amounts of… well, anything, has created a backlash of official health gloom and doom. In the uproar, we have lost sight of the basic taste and nutritional value that salt provides.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Ronald Holden has been writing an award-winning food, wine & travel blog,, since 2004. A Northwest native, Belltown resident and serious Francophile (with increasing fondness for La Dolce Vita), he also writes for,, and City Living. He previously worked at KING TV, Seattle Weekly and Chateau Ste. Michelle. He has published five guidebooks to the wine country of Washington and Oregon and is the wine columnist for Edible Seattle. He is also the director of wine tours for The International Vineyard.

Photo Credit: Ronald Holden

Where do you fall in the salt argument? Have you switched over to sea salt or are you still using conventional table or kosher salt?