AAIM | 21st Century Medicine

The Journal of the American Association of Integrative Medicine

Unexpected Surprises & Salt

Unexpected Surprises & Salt


Originally published August 11th, 2014 in Minerals & Vitamins, Eat for Health, Bon Appetit – Just Plain Good Food.

My life does not transport me into the metropolitan world much, however, every once in a while I journey to the hustle and bustle of the city. I was recently in Portland, Oregon, my state’s largest metropolitan area, and for a change I had time to explore. A large gap in my commitment schedule for the day allowed for an unexpected surprise.

I was walking along Mississippi Street, exploring small, artisan specialty shops and restaurants when I spied “The Meadow” (www.themeadow.net) where under the sign it read—Salt – Chocolate – Drink – Flowers — and my mouth begins to salivate whenever I think, read, write or talk about salt. I have craved salt for as long as I can remember and have gone to great lengths as a ranch kid to get my salt fix. I remember hot summer days sitting in an apple tree with a salt shaker in hand, eating green apples, tasting warm rhubarb stalks and eating carrots dipped in salt. So of course, across the street I went, to see if I had found my dream shop.

As I approached, the neatly arranged flowers, planter boxes with herbs and displays in the window caused a tickle of anticipation. As I stepped through the doors, I looked around hurriedly for a napkin because I was quickly turning into Pavlov’s dog. A vast variety of commercial salts greeted me, as well as a mountain of Himalayan salt cooking blocks of every imaginable size, and 12 foot floor to ceiling walls loaded with perfect glass jars of salt from around the world. Oh, and there were other non-important stuff like flowers, chocolate and wine too.

Mark Bitterman and his family have created a wonderful shop on this once industrial street of Portland. Mark is the author of Salted, A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. I am delighted to add this book to my collection and it is a must-own for holistic nutritionists, foodies, chefs, and thyroid & adrenal fatigue clients who know life simply doesn’t work correctly without salt.

In the Pacific Northwest, we have an ever-growing “Food” movement. This movement may have started with coffee and microbrews, but man cannot live on these beverages alone and they taste soooo much better when paired with the right foods and yes, that includes salt!

Salt has the unique ability to connect the world like no other mineral, ingredient or food. Men, like animals, have a need for salt to survive. It creates energy for the heart to beat correctly and for the brain, thyroid, liver and stomach to function properly. But the salt we think of is far from what was consumed around the world – Morton and the industrialized salt manufacturing of the USA is a far cry from the salt mines in Asia, Europe, and Brittany, France.

Throughout Europe, small communities know the name of the individual or family who raised the beef, potatoes, vegetables, bread, wine, cheese and salt they are eating. They have a connection, they have a community, family and shared cultural history. With this, comes the return of local or artisan salt. Natural salt is available in a huge array of colors, flavors and crystal characteristics. Some are perfectly suited for confectionery masterpieces like Fleur de Sel Caramels. These salted caramels originated in Brittany, France, due to the availability of the artisan-made salts in the region.

In the United States, we generally have three varieties of salt, much of which are the same way. Mark Bitterman so aptly states in his book; “Some things do not belong in our food supply. Industrial salts like cheap sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt are products that few people want in their kitchens if they understand and face up to how they are made.”

Perhaps our decline in home cooking and our dependence on commercial foods has corrupted our sense of taste. While I am no expert, I know I can clearly taste the differences in salts and I do appreciate the value of real salt for our health. If we are enjoying the fresh abundance of produce from community supported agriculture and farmers markets, we already understand how much better local, fresh foods taste over limp, lifeless store versions. So why wouldn’t we want to use natural salts to make those flavors pop and zing even more?

I’m off to buy a salt block to try some of grilled steak recipes out …. now we are talking summer!

To Your Good Health, Real Foods.


One Response to “Unexpected Surprises & Salt”

  1. I always thought salt was salt except for Sea Salt. Very interesting. Would like to know more.
    An island I go to in the Grenadines, West Indies has salt ponds but I don’t really know what it’s about.

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