Salts and Spices in Your Food
With a lot of flavors for our palate to experience, find out what is salt sensitivity, and how to make healthier decisions with salt and spices in your food.
Aside from bringing us the enjoyment of the food we eat, flavor plays an important factor in our digestive process. Along with our sense of smell, they trigger our salivary glands and digestive juices to prepare in the breaking down of our food.
So we may take pleasure in the saltiness of chicharon, the familiar sour taste of sinigang, and the spiciness of Bicol express, but studies show there is more to flavor than what we experience in the palate.
Flavor can be the determining element as to whether a person accepts a particular kind of food, or how much of it to consume. Since these preferences also affect the nutrition our body receives, it is beneficial to look at how we think about the salts and spices we put in our food.
What is Salt Sensitivity?
Salt resistance is a person’s tolerance to a diet high in salt. This means that the blood pressure of someone with high salt resistance does not increase significantly by eating food that is high on sodium.
So you may have that friend whose blood pressure remains more or less unaffected by the amount of pizza, french fries, or chips they eat.
On the other hand, you may also know of people whose blood pressure rise several points even with a small switch towards a high-sodium diet.
Based on Harvard Medical School reports that 60% of individuals suffering from high blood pressure are considered to be salt-sensitive. With salt’s role in the health of our circulatory system, how do you know when salt is too much?
The Pros and Cons of Salt
Sodium, a mineral found in salt, helps control the fluid balance of our body. Regulated by our kidney, sodium is vital in the functioning of our muscles and nerve impulses.
Too much salt causes high blood pressure because the extra sodium in the bloodstream pulls more water to the blood vessels. With this increased volume of blood in the blood vessels, pressure increases, like a garden hose with more water passing through it.
Too little sodium in the diet, however, may be just as harmful. A low-salt diet can cause an elevation in LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (a type of fat that can be unhealthy in high amounts). Heart disease, diabetes, and insulin resistance are also listed as effects of low sodium in the body.
How Spices Can Help
With a wide array of flavors available for us, spices can be a healthier alternative to cooking with too much salt. Spicy food may curb cravings for salt. According to Chinese professor Dr. Zhiming Zhu, his research revealed how capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the pungent smell of chili peppers) enhanced the perceived saltiness of food. He also showed how respondents with a preference for spicier foods registered lower blood pressure.
In addition, herbs and spices are naturally rich in flavor. They are also rich in phytochemicals that can help our body repair damaged cells and fight inflammation.
Take It With a Grain of Salt
Ultimately, while some people may be unaffected by a high-salt diet, others may not be so lucky. Balance is key in terms of seasoning your food. Enjoy every dish, but it would also be best to monitor your own salt sensitivity to determine your personal tipping point.