The flavour of life

By Naini Setalvad

May 2014

We can’t do without salt, the most essential of ingredients, says Naini Setalvad

Come summer, and chances are high that excessive sweating can reduce our salt content, and expose us to dehydration.

This loss of salt can be dangerous and lead to low blood sodium, known as “hyponatremia”. Salt is essential to maintain the pH balance of the body, so when its level falls, it affects the entire body. Therefore, add that extra salt to your food in summertime by sprinkling rock salt on your fruits, juices and salads.


Most people think salt is bad for health. This is far from the truth. What causes the harm is the wrong type of salt taken in the wrong quantities. Salt is an essential food. During my grandfather’s time, salt was called ‘sabras’, which literally means juice of life. Salt is vital for the survival of all living beings. It is as important as water to regulate the electrolyte balance in the body, which determines its health.

Salt is vital to nerve cells communication and information processing by the brain cells. It also helps to raise low BP, clear up catarrh and congestion of the sinuses, and prevent muscle cramp. Salt on the tongue stops persistent dry coughs. Fortunately, it still remains one of the cheapest of condiments.

Long before the earth knew pollutants of any kind, a huge, ancient sea covered what is now North America. Pure, natural salt was the main ingredient of this sea, and over millions of years, the water in the sea evaporated, leaving the salt in undisturbed deposits. Salt derived from the sea or rocks is natural salt.

Natural salt

According to ayurveda, rock salt, sindhala, or upvas ka namak are the healthiest of all salts. Rock salt and sea salt are known to have cooling, anti-acidic, anti-bilious, anti-phlegmatic, carminative and digestive benefits on the human body. Both these types of salt are similar as the same minerals are found in them.

Black/rock salt: Black salt is known as kala namak. It is a special type of Indian mineral salt with a distinctive taste. Black salt is not actually black, it is more reddish-gray. It is regarded as a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicines.

Himalayan salt: Himalayan salt is basically from Kherwa, which is located in the mountainous terrains of Himalayas on the Pakistan side. It comes in a variety of colours, from pure white to shades of pink and goes up to deep red. Himalayan salt is available in solid slabs. Many gourmet restaurants use these slabs to serve food on it. This salt can remain without gathering moisture for a long time.

Table salt: This is the common salt normally found on every table. It is a finely-ground, highly refined rock salt with some additives to keep it free-flowing. Smaller particles mean more particles per measure and more surface area than coarser grinds. As such, use about half the amount if you are substituting for coarse salt. Table salt is normally highly refined salt as most of the nutrients found in natural salts are lost due to processing. Natural salts contain 83 trace minerals necessary for our body. Table salt is made up of uniform finely powdered crystals which are made up by heating up to 1200 degree Fahrenheit. The high heat kills the nutrients.

Processed salt is a stress food as it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. It also causes water retention in the body and therefore raises the blood pressure and causes swelling in the feet as well as increased weight.

Deficiency of organic sodium in table salt results in bronchial and lung problems because natural sodium is required for the elimination of carbon dioxide from the body.

Iodised salt: People living away from the ocean may suffer from iodine deficiency, which is sought to be made up by the inclusion of chemical iodine to common table salt. However, sea salt has trace elements of iodine in it which is enough for the human body, and far healthier too.

Celtic salt: Celtic salt is the most expensive type of salt. It is obtained through a 2000-year-old method of harvesting salt directly by a solar evaporator from the waters of the Celtic sea marshes in Brittany, France. Its taste is described as mellow with a salty, yet slightly sweet taste.

Seasoned salt: This is simply salt which is flavoured with different seasonings. For example, garlic is added to any salt whether rock, sea or iodised. In the same way any herb or condiment can be added to get various seasoned salts.

Kosher salt: Kosher salt has a larger grain than the common table salt. Like common table salt it also contains the chemical compound of sodium chloride. Normally Kosher salt does not have additives. Kosher salt is not only preferred by Jewish cooks, but also by professional and gourmet cooks who favour its texture and, of course, bright flavour. It dissolves faster than table salt and hence gives a fabulous taste. Chefs recommend kosher salt for tossing vegetables. While cooking meats one should be careful to remove all the blood.

Coloured salt: Coloured salt is a comparatively new product, made out of adding different chemical colours to the salt, marketed for its novelty. Not a healthy choice.

Refreshing coriander-mint drink



1 cup mint leaves

1/2 cup coriander leaves

2 green chillies

1/4 tsp jeera powder

Rock salt and lemon to taste


o Wash the mint and coriander leaves three to four times.

o Mix mint, coriander, jeera, rock salt, green chili, lemon juice and blend it.

o Add little water and chill.

o  Enjoy the refreshing drink in this hot summer


Fresh melon chaat



1/2 cup watermelon, cubes, de-seeded

1/2 cup musk melon, cubes, de-seeded

8-10 mint leaves, chopped finely

1/4 tsp lemon juice

Rock salt and black pepper to taste


o Cut water melon and musk melon into big cubes.

o Finely chop the mint leaves.

o Mix water melon, musk melon and mint leaves in a big bowl.

o Sprinkle salt, lemon and black pepper

o    Enjoy this watery treat in sizzling summer.

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