When I set up Ruth’s Real Food in 2008, I deliberated for quite some time about salt. I’ve never used a great deal of salt in my cooking. It’s not a health thing per se, more one of personal taste. I like salt on chips and some hits of salty flavours like soy sauce, marmite and anchovies but I don’t like the taste of salt overwhelming meals. Over time, I’ve become more sensitive to the taste so that eating out is often a big disappointment as the food is way too salty for me and my family.
So my dilemma was: should my menu reflect how I cook at home, ie. no added salt, or should I try and ’season’ my food with salt to suit other people’s expectations. Well, I took a leap of faith and opted to just be myself, cooking the way I like to eat. After all, customers could add salt to my meals at home but they can’t take it out.
At first, I didn’t make a big deal of the fact there’s no added salt in my meals but the more I spoke to people, the more people said that’s the way they cooked too. I tend to season with ingredients other than salt. I use herbs, spices, garlic, lemon and wine to add flavours and there are lots of good ideas for salt substitutes online if you want to reduce the amount of salt you use. I particularly like: https://shescookin.com/10-naturally-delicious-sodium-substitutes
Aside from taste, salt is increasingly known as one of the bad guys, alongside sugar and fat, when it comes to our health. Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) was set up in the nineties to look at these issues and is supported by many prominent experts in the field. According to their website:
Our bodies need a little bit of salt to survive, but the amount we eat is far more than we require. Evidence has shown that regularly eating too much salt puts us at increased risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks and heart failures, the most common causes of death and illness in the world.
The NHS guideline states we should have no more than 6g of salt per day for an adult (about 1 teaspoon) but the average person is currently consuming 8.1g per day, most of which comes from processed foods. As to the amount our bodies actually need, opinions vary greatly, anything from 0.5g to 3g per day depending on who you listen to. What is clear, is that the NHS guideline is still too high and that’s probably as a result of the food industry pushing back on what the medical profession is advising the Government. See www.actiononsalt.org.uk for further information and I always advise reading food labels before you buy, it’s often very revealing and not always in a good way.
Anyway, I’m very glad I had the courage of my convictions back in 2008 and I should have been more confident about it at the time because it’s now proving to be a very valuable asset to my business as it must be unique in the prepared meals market. I even plucked up the courage to enter some food Awards recently, making sure that I informed the judging panel of why I do what I do, and it will be mighty interesting to see what feedback I get. And, if the judging panel don’t like my food? Well, my customers like it and they’re the best judges in my book.