Salt of the Earth

00:00 December 21, 2013

 We’ve all heard the idiom ‘he/she isn’t worth their salt.’ Understanding that most idioms have unpredictable meanings based on their constituents, this phrase is shockingly jargon of fact. We are made up of organic material ranging in mineral and cellular form. Sodium is a necessity for bodily processes and major organ functionality. In the parlance of our times, one will simply ‘kick the bucket’ without it. But how much is too much?
Sodium intake is recommended to be less than 2,300 milligrams daily. It is a mineral found in various foods including table salt. One teaspoon of table salt contains about 2,000 mg of sodium. Most people are generally confused about the difference between “sodium” and “salt.” Table salt is composed of sodium and chloride ions that cannot be made by the body itself. The most common vehicle for sodium chloride consumption comes via seasoned food intake. That said, our favorite flavorful granules play important roles in the body. People with high blood pressure may be placed on a low salt diet by their doctor or dietitian to reduce sodium levels, as high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and/or kidney disease.  Even knowing these consequences, most of us refuse to ditch the white shaker from the kitchen table. Due to befuddling nutritional labeling, there is an easy equation you can use to calculate how much salt you are consuming. Simply multiply the sodium content by 2.5 and the result is the actual salt content. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) conducted a recent report for the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggesting lowering sodium intake below the daily recommendation did not produce beneficial evidence. According to IOM committee chair Brian Strom, “These new studies support previous findings that reducing sodium from very high intake levels to moderate levels improves health, but they also suggest that lowering sodium intake too much may actually increase a person’s risk of some health problems.”
Sodium is fundamental for normal muscle function and regulation of blood pressure, but the most common symptom sodium deficient Americans face is dehydration. Take a look at your favorite athletic drink or sickness remedy – and we’ll just say hangover cure because we’re all adults here. Gatorade and Pedialyte have a quantitive surplus of sodium based on electrolyte factors alone. The ability to maintain or speed up the cellular restoration process is partly why these items are go to’s for those suffering dehydration. Water cannot do alone what these counterparts do in conjunction.  You may recall the sodium potassium pumps from your biology courses in school. The pumps maintain the electrochemical gradient allowing absorptive cells to transport nutrients into the the cell via secondary active transport. The sodium potassium pump also functions in restoring a muscle or neuronal cell to normal levels of sodium and potassium after synaptic activity, making it crucial for proper nervous system activity. In layman’s terms, it is near impossible to have stability within your inner workings without sodium.
Current dietary guidelines suggest keeping the dose of sodium at the recommended level while consuming potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. However, if you are in the following population groups, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.

You are 51 years of age or older.
You are African American.
You have high blood pressure.
You have diabetes.
You have chronic kidney disease.
The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults.

So let’s talk about food, particularly to aid the groups listed above restricted to low sodium diets. Ramen is a popular ethnic dish with a primary base of either soy or miso. Both soy and miso have extreme amounts of sodium, but in its diluted state it supplies loads of flavor and enough of the mineral for vital biological activity. Noodle and Pie is one of the newest ‘gotta try it’ spots on the Uptown beat. Stationed in a corner building at Magazine and State Streets, its address used to be the home to Reginelli’s, which has since moved directly across Mag into more expansive digs. Their revelatory take on the Asian noodle soup is impressive to say the least. The House Bowl features smoked hen broth, slow cooked pork shoulder, egg, greens, mushrooms, shredded nori, and fish cake. Creative additions like duck, chicken meatballs, and pork belly may seem showboat-y, but until you try it, you haven’t really lived. If ramen is up your alley, Little Tokyo is known for their massive bowls of traditional ramen with your choice of spiciness and base. White and pink swirled fish cakes float around with onion and vegetable in perfect zen. Bring a hefty appetite if you plan to finish the whole thing.
After facing off with a huge bowl of salty satisfaction, you may notice you feel a little ‘puffy’ or  perhaps your ankles swelled a bit. Water retention is a common side effect of too much sodium consumption. Ironically, the first step to avoid it is to drink more water. This allows the circulatory system and kidneys, aka the waste highway and filtration system of the body, to rid the excess salt from cells and obtain a balanced fluid volume. Not drinking enough non-caffeinated fluids while ingesting a high dose of sodium can cause water weight gain, and at 7 pounds per gallon, that’s a new pant size if you aren’t careful.
In a reconditioned warehouse space off of the Convention Center Boulevard end of Julia Street – you know, that fabulous stretch of foodie row where popular Rock n’ Sake and La Boca reside –  Chef Phillip Lopez makes magic in the kitchen of Root. Clever concoctions branded under ‘Socials,’ ‘Beginnings,’ ‘Principals’, and ‘Endings’ categories charm the pickiest eaters with gorgeous descriptions and wholesome ingredients. The presentation will knock your socks off, so make sure your shoelaces are tied tight. The modern American fare brings sensory bang to the plate without over-seasoned threat of heart failure. For instance, the “Root” Vegetable Salad, a medley of heirloom carrots, charred fennel, veggie ash purée, pickled celery root, smoked rutabaga purée in a lemon verbena thyme vinaigrette ranks high on the "wow" factor with complementing organic flavors. The Glazed Pork Belly dish dances with Summer squash, vegetable ash hominy, snap beans, poached lobster and pork lobster nage confirming Chef Lopez’s mantra that his artisan creations will remain limited in sodium and fat content despite robust flavor combinations.

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