Salt is an integral, and ever-present, part of our lives. It is there every time we eat, and even drink! Salt isn’t just important for taste, however, it is also essential for maintaining good health (and a whole host of other things).
So how much do you really know about these white crystals? Did you know, for instance, that salt used to be more expensive than gold at one point? Or about the country that used to use salt as currency? For that matter, how much do you know about the health importance of salt?
Check out today’s article to learn these, and more, interesting facts about salt.
Interesting Facts About Salt
- White Gold – Salt used to be so expensive in the Middle Ages that it was often referred to as “white gold”.
- Salt as currency – Salt was used as the main currency right up to the 20th century in what is now Ethiopia. Bars of salt (called amoleh) was their main form of currency.
- Roman soldiers were paid in salt? – There is a widespread belief that Roman soldiers were paid in salt (hence the word salary, from salarium). But this is not entirely accurate. The soldiers were, in fact, mostly paid in normal money. The connection with salt is very likely a result of the fact that the soldiers were partly paid with salt or the fact that they protected the salt roads leading to Rome (via Salarium).
- Salt in aviation – Salt is not just good in food (or as currency), it is also a very important material in the aviation industry. Here’s why: the salt is crucial for the final preparation of aviation fuel. It is mixed with purified aviation fuel to get rid of any water content. Without that essential final process, the fuel would not be ready to be used.
- Four times as expensive as beef – Salt, at one point, was way more expensive than beef. Four times more expensive, in fact. This was during the early 1800s on the American frontier, where salt was essential for keeping people and livestock alive.
- Main cargo – During the late 17th century, salt was the main (and likely the most valuable) cargo carried from the Caribbean to North America. Salt Cod was the main cargo carried by ships from North America to the Caribbean, where it was used to feed slaves on sugar plantations.
- Lack of salt can kill – Aside from its other uses (including trade and industry), salt is most valuable because of its importance to our health. In fact, it is so important for our body that if you drink too much water at one go, it can flush (nearly all) the salt out of your system, which can cause fatal hyponatremia (or acute water intoxication). This can cause death, as it did in the case of Jennifer Strange. Too much of anything is bad, even if it is something as important as water. Read more about hyponatremia here.
- Too much salt can kill – As essential as salt is for our health, too much of it is not good. In fact, having too much salt can be downright deadly! Taking about 1 gram of salt per kilogram of weight can cause death. This actually used to be a common method of ritual suicide in China, especially amongst the nobility (salt was expensive, and as such was seen as a status symbol).
- 6g of salt – Yes, too much salt can be dangerous, but that does not discount the fact that it still essential for maintaining our health. None of it is as dangerous as too much. So how much salt should you have in a day? According to the NHS, an average adult should not have more than 6g (about 1 teaspoon) of salt in a day – this is the maximum daily intake recommended by the health professionals, so try to stick to that limit.
- The best type of salt – On that note, do you know which type of salt is best for you? If you said sea salt, you are absolutely right. Sea salt is the best type of salt because good quality sea salt contains a lot of the essential minerals our body needs.
Bonus Salt Fact
The world has moved on. Technology has changed how salt is collected and processed. But there is a place where salt is still collected in the same way it was collected hundreds of years ago.
That place is Guerande, in France.
There, salt is still collected in the same way as it was done by the ancient Celts. The Celts used baskets to strain seawater and collect salt. This method, however, makes the salt very expensive (no surprise there). That said, their salt is also highly sought after, especially the best quality version called Fleur de Sel (flower of salt). The Fleur de Sel is never used in cooking – it is only used to sprinkle on food prior to serving.
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Who knew salt could be so interesting!
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