Posted on March 12th, 2013
Writing for The American Scholar, Priscilla Long contemplates our relationship with salt after her father had an adverse reaction to a meal at a Japanese restaurant. Some of the fascinating details she relays are the fact that the human body contains about three or four salt-shakers-worth at any given time, that we constantly need to replace the mineral or we’ll die, and that the electrical properties of salt help fire the computational machine we call the brain:
Sodium has one electron—unpaired—in its outer shell, and chlorine needs one electron to fill its outer shell. The marriage is quickly arranged. This leaves sodium as an ion: it has more protons than electrons and thus a positive charge. We need salt in part because sodium—that positive ion—is a key conductor in the body’s electrical systems, crucial to signaling in the brain.