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A pinch of salt

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Pink rock salt is said to have a host of nutritional and therapeutic properties

Most of us cannot imagine a meal without salt. It’s one of the most basic food seasonings, a valuable food preservative and is said to be extremely mineral-rich and therefore good for health. Back in simpler times, salt was a treasured commodity, protected and well-guarded, worth its weight in gold. The Romans, Chinese, Jews and Egyptians were among the many communities who valued it for its symbolic and therapeutic benefits. Roman soldiers were paid in salt and interestingly the word ‘Salary’ and ‘Salad’ are derived from the word ‘salt’. In India, of course, Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Salt March’ was also of tremendous significance.

Experts point out, however, that today modern refineries have processed it to such an extent that it can be hazardous for consumption. Table salt is bleached for its attractive white colour and its chemical composition is altered, taking the ‘life’ out of the salt. Salt production has shifted to factories that used extreme heating procedures  which strip the salt of all essential minerals. The salt we eat today has little in common with the original unrefined salt that our ancestors consumed.  

Sea salt is said to be a better alternative, with a host of minerals.  As an article in the Guardian points out, however, sea salt globally has been contaminated by plastic pollution.

In such a scenario, pink rock salt has suddenly become trendy; it is also supposed to have all kinds of nutritional and therapeutic properties. The McGill Office for Science and Society (OSS) has a different view on the matter—they say that while minerals are found in higher abundance in Himalayan salt, if you factor in how little salt one tends to eat in a day, the difference is unnoticeable.

However, according to a spokesperson of Puro Healthy Salt, pink rock salt contains the same 84 trace minerals and elements that are found in the human body, a few of which include sodium chloride, iodine, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It is trace minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium that give the salt its light pink tint. Himalayan salt is a type of rock salt that's mined from the Punjab region in Pakistan, particularly in the Khewra Salt Mine.

“When consuming this salt, you are actually getting less sodium intake per serving than iodized white salt because it is less refined and the pieces are larger,” says a Puro spokesperson. “Therefore pink rock salt has less sodium per serving because the crystals or flakes take up less room than the highly processed white iodised salt variety. The minerals in this salt exist in colloidal form, which means that they are small enough for our cells to absorb easily.”

Pink rock salt also finds a mention in Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, ‘salty’ is a basic taste, essential for growth, for maintaining water and electrolyte balance and for proper digestion, absorption, and elimination of wastes. It is said to relieve Vata and intensify Pitta and Kapha doshas. However, quantity and quality are vital; too high an intake is unhealthy and leads to an imbalance in the body. According to Acharya Charaka, Saindhavalavana, also known as pink rock salt, has Tridoshara, Deepana, Rochana (improves taste), Hrudya (good for heart), Chakshusya (good for eyes), Avidahi. It cures Netra rogas (eye diseases), Vranas and Vibandha. As per Sushruta Samhita, Saindhavalavana promotes appetite and assists digestion and assimilation. It is said to be useful for abdominal disorders.

Grocery stores in Mumbai are suddenly full of pink salt, and you can use it to to cook, season or preserve food. Himalayan salt blocks are also used as cooking surfaces, cutting boards and serving platters, and there are people who convert them into lamps and candle holders too.

Here’s one way to use it in your kitchen

Grilled Eggplant with Pink Salt

3 medium eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. Himalayan Salt, plus more for sprinkling

1 Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in one cup warm water in a large mixing bowl, then add three quarts of cold water and set aside.

2 Cut the brinjal into ¾-inch thick diagonal slices and soak in salt water solution for 30 minutes. (Ensure they are fully submerged, by putting a plate or some other weight on it.)

3 While the slices are soaking heat your grill to medium-high heat.

4 Drain eggplant and pat it dry. Arrange these slices on a large baking sheet or tray. Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Set the slices on the grill with the oiled side down, and grill with the lid closed for about five minutes.

5 Brush the tops with oil and sprinkle with salt, then turn slices over and grill until grill marks appear and the eggplant is soft and tender, about five minutes.

6 Serve hot or at room temperature.

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