I’m sure you are wondering, what is this talk about salt going bad, right? I mean, after millions of years in seawater (for sea salt) and even perhaps in rock form (for Himalayan rock salt), what is the fuss over a couple of weeks, months, or even years of it being in the pantry?
Does this then mean that salt lasts indefinitely? Short answer, yes. However, the components that make it up are not quite as lucky. Confusing right? Well, let us break that down.
The naturally occurring pure salt does not go bad. Store-bought salt can have additives in them which go bad themselves but only affect the overall quality of the salt and not the ability to consume the salt.
From time immemorial, salt has been used in the practice of preservation of other food items due to its longevity and the fact that it draws out water from the cells of the various food items it is used to preserve. Pure salt does not go bad because of the lack of water or moisture in it. And, as we all know, water is the key element necessary for any microbial growth to take place.
The only problem would have to be that, most salts that are available commercially in our stores and supermarkets are not entirely pure. Iodized salt has, well, iodine, unrefined sea salt contains some traces of algae and even Himalayan rock salt gets its pink color due to the presence of mineral impurities. And as you probably guessed, these additives do not last forever.
Luckily for us, even though these additives do not last forever, they technically do not make the salt go bad or spoil. Maybe just be ready for a lowering in the general quality of the salt and a definite degradation of any health benefits that would have been gotten from the salt.
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How to tell if salt has gone bad.
Even though we have just stated that salt does not go bad and that it can stay fine for pretty much eons, there exist some circumstances that can cause the salt to be either completely useless or of extremely poor quality that you would rather opt to throw it out than risk using it.
One instance is where the packaging has alive or dead insects and bugs in it. Also, if you smell the salt and it just smells off or has absorbed am odor from other foods, it is probably safer to just discard it.
Further, if the salt has formed into a large hard clump that needs Thor’s hammer to break it apart, just let it be and throw it out.
How long does salt last for?
I would say that as long as the salt in your kitchen or pantry is the natural and pure salt (that is free from additives), then you can consume the salt well past the expiration date written on the label or packaging. Of course, this is provided that no contamination has occurred.
For the other non-pure options of salt, the iodine and anti-caking agents may degrade over time and thus reduce the long shelf life of salt to about five years.
Why does salt have a use-by date?
If the salt in your kitchen or pantry has an expiration date printed on the label or packaging, it is probably because it is a legal requirement for manufacturers to do so in some jurisdictions.
Another reason is probably because most people have an aversion to buying things, more so food items that come with an expiration date printed on them as opposed to the ones that do not.
I guess it gives them a sense of protection and control (that way, they are able to plan on how to use the product before it reaches spoilage).
How to store salt.
Yes, pure and natural salt will not go bad but that does not mean that it is not susceptible to change brought about by a change in its environment and surrounding. As is the case with every other ingredient in the kitchen cabinet, proper storage of the items is the key way to ensure that it keeps well and fresh and retains optimum quality.
The best approach with salt is to ensure that it is stored in an airtight resealable container. This is since salt is highly absorbent, it can pick up moisture from the surrounding (this will lead to the clumping that we are trying to avoid).
You can pour out a little bit into your salt shaker for easier access for the normal day to day use with meals and after store up the rest. Once you have made the division, place the tightly sealed container (this is since the salt can also pick up odors from other substances that give out rather strong odors) in a cool and dark place.
Always ensure that the place is dry and free from a variation in temperature but rather that it remains constant.
Why we need salt.
You probably did not know this but the body needs salt, in moderation of course because too much or too little can cause problems.
Since salt is made up of about forty percent of sodium, if a food item’s label lists sodium instead of salt as one of the ingredients, just multiply the answer by 2.5 and you will have a more accurate picture of the actual salt content you risk consuming in that item. The recommended maximum intake of salt for an individual is around one teaspoon a day.
The presence of salt in our diets helps with several of the processes that are constantly happening in our bodies. It also boosts the functioning of some organs in our bodies and helps improve the symptoms of some diseases that some people suffer from. These benefits and needs include;
- Keeping the body hydrated; our muscles, cells, and tissue need water, the salty we consume helps these parts maintain just the right amount of fluid and electrolyte balance. When our bodies are dehydrated, we tend to become more prone to experiencing muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue.
- Prevention of low blood pressure; having an inadequate amount of sodium in your diet can lead to low blood pressure. Signs of which include dizziness, nausea, fainting, and blurry vision.
- Helps with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland; this is one organ that usually plays an important role in metabolism. However, for a person’s thyroid to work properly and appropriately, their body needs to have adequate portions of the mineral iodine. A deficiency in this mineral iodine will prevent the body from producing enough of the thyroid hormone. This will in turn lead to the individual experiencing symptoms such as an enlarged thyroid, difficulty thinking, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, sweating, and even having mood swings.
- Salt also helps improve the symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis; for individuals living with cystic fibrosis, they need more water and salt in their diet to avoid dehydration because of the fact that they lose more salt in their sweat than the average person. The consumption of salt by individuals who you have this condition should at all times be done after consultation with their doctor in order to see how much salt they need daily based on their levels of activity level. This is because salt requirements vary for every individual. There is no one size fits all approach.
Why you should not eat too much salt.
A wise person once said that too much of anything, whether good or bad, is bad for you. Too much salt can hurt you in the following ways;
- Increases water retention in the body; simply put if you eat too much salt, chances are that your kidneys will not be able to filter the excess amounts of sodium from your bloodstream. It then builds up in your system and causes your body to hold onto extra water in an attempt to dilute the sodium.
- Damages your heart health; because of the excess water being held onto by your body, added pressure is then put on your heart and blood vessels to pump it all. This added pressure then triggers high blood pressure which can cause a stroke or even a heart attack.
- Exposure to a higher risk of osteoporosis; the more salt you eat, the more calcium your body loses each time you urinate. And because we all know calcium makes our bones strong, having too little of it in our diet will lead to the body taking it from our bones, therefore, increasing the risk of having bone problems.
Uses of salt.
I bet you did not know that apart from cooking, use in recipes, flavoring food and other kitchen uses of salt like preservation of other food items, salt can be used for a whole other bunch of things.
It has also been used in tanning, dyeing and bleaching, and the production of pottery, soap, and even chlorine. Today, salt is one of the products that is widely used in the chemical industry.