Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eat This Rock!

In chemical terms, salt is the substance produced by the reaction of an acid with a base. When the unstable metal sodium, which can suddenly burst in to flames, is combined with the deadly poisonous gas chlorine, it becomes the food staple we call sodium chloride, or NaCl, and is from the only family of rocks eaten by humans! The mineral salt is one sodium ion and one chlorine ion. It is 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight.

I know this all sounds kind of geeky, but science is fun and edible!

Of the many different salts, the one we most enjoy eating and identify as ‘salty flavor’ is sodium chloride. Many of the other salts will convey a bitter, sour or other unwelcome taste, though they contribute value to the human diet.

So, why would a person want to eat a rock? Our bodies need it. We lose salt through body functions and we need to replace it. Chloride is essential to our respiration and digestion. The human body does not manufacture sodium but needs it to carry important nutrients, oxygen, nerve impulses and to move muscles (including the heart).

How much salt should we eat? The experts differ in opinions on how much salt a person needs to be healthy and their estimates range from two-thirds of a pound to more than sixteen pounds per year. People who live in hot climates or who do physical labor will need more salt to replace what is lost through sweating.

Believe it or not, the adult human has about 250 grams of salt in their body. That’s about 4 salt shakers worth!

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