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Making Peace With Salt

Even as the FDA harangues the food industry for using excessive levels of sodium, and your doctor tsk-tsks at your high blood pressure, bear in mind that salt keeps us alive. The human body needs it for digestion and for the transportation of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, as well as to transmit nerve impulses and stimulate muscles such as the heart. Indeed, whether you choose $10-an-ounce Fleur de Sel from Guerande, France, or snow-white Morton’s from mines beneath Detroit, you must keep a stash of sodium chloride in your home. Salt is the only rock we eat. Salt is so important that humans evolved sensors on specific taste buds to register the sensation of salt, just as it did to monitor sweet, sour, and bitter flavors. Presumably, our primitive ancestors developed these flavor receptors as a warning system to help differentiate the good or benign from the poisonously bad. Throughout the eons, salt has also served as the most effective way to cure and preserve meat, fish, and vegetables. The fact that salt also enhances the taste of other food encouraged early humans to eat a varied diet — f …

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