12 Amazing Facts About Salt

Facts about salt from the days of old

By Jen McCaffery with Naorem Anuja Updated: Jul 16, 2019 16:49:29 IST
12 Amazing Facts About Salt Illustration by Serge Bloch

1. Salt was so valuable in ancient Rome that soldiers were sometimes paid with it. In fact, the word ‘salary’ comes from the Latin word sal, for salt. When a soldier was doing a lousy job, his pay cheque might be cut, which is how we got the expression “not worth his salt”.

2. Historically, salt’s value came from its ability to preserve food. Venice, in Italy, may be famous for its canals now, but salt imports fuelled its rise as an influential trade power by the end of the 13th century.

3. Salt also took on a great deal of symbolic value. There is a reason it is mentioned so many times in the Bible (‘salt of the earth’, ‘a pillar of salt’, ‘a covenant of salt’). Its preservative properties made it an apt metaphor for permanence and conviction.

4. Most people know about the health risks associated with sodium, but reducing your intake is easier said than done. According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), an average Indian consumes around 10 g of salt per day, which is double the recommended amount. Since the taste for salt is acquired, reduced consumption could be practised from an early age.

5. Even French fries aren’t necessarily the biggest culprit. A 2012 study that examined sodium levels of fast-food items from different countries found that pizza and burgers have more sodium than fries, because they come in larger serving sizes.

6. Extra salt may be lurking in your meals, even if you are very careful. Cultivate healthier eating habits: Avoid sprinkling salt on salads, fruits or yogurt. Condiments like salad dressings, pickles, papads and ketchup are high in sodium content.

7. Sea salt may sound healthier than table salt, but both contain roughly the same proportion of sodium—about 40 per cent. If you are looking for sodium-free flavouring, try garlic, pepper, oregano, sage, rosemary and other spices or herbs.

8. Even if you don’t have hyper-tension, it’s still a good idea to cut down on your salt intake to reduce your blood pressure, according to a 2017 review of 185 studies. 

9. For older folks especially, a heavy hand with the salt shaker may also hurt your head. A study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, comprising of 975 people aged 60 to 80 with hypertension, found that reducing sodium in their diets was associated with a lower risk of headache.

10. Still, we all need at least some salt. It facilitates the transport of nutrients and oxygen, allows nerves to transmit messages and helps our muscles work. The average adult’s body contains about 250 g of sodium—the equivalent of about three or four shakers of salt.

11. Efforts to promote consumption of iodized salt in India started in the 1960s. By the mid-’80s, salt became a primary tool in the fight against goitre, a thyroid disorder caused by iodine deficiency. In 2013, the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme estimated that more than 200 million Indians were still at risk of iodine deficiency disorders.

12. The Dead Sea, around 10 times more salty than seawater, is only the fifth saltiest body of water on earth. The Don Juan Pond, a 10-cm puddle in Antarctica, is the saltiest. A salinity level of over 40 per cent ensures that its waters rarely freeze! 

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