Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Salt

You might think you know a little something about salt. It comes in grains, it's the only rock humans eat, it's called sodium chloride, and it makes food taste amazing. While those are pretty interesting tidbits, there's a whole lot more to salt than just that. There are facts about salt that will amaze you, and the history of salt is one steeped in warfare and wealth. This isn't just any old condiment we're talking about here, and we've got the cool salt facts to prove it.

It's not just salt chemistry that makes this subject interesting. You may already know what salt is made of, but we can assure you that some of its uses, influence on history, and effects on the human body will surprise you. 

By the time you're done reading these cool salt facts, you can bet you'll be worth your salt. 

  • Without Salt, You Die

    Without Salt, You Die
    Photo: Prabhat Saraswat / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    Maybe you think you need less salt in your diet. While that might be true, under no circumstances should you completely cut salt out of your life. Your cells need salt to function, and having none can actually kill you. In fact, there have been cases of people drinking so much water that they dilute the salt in their bodies, which leads directly to their death. In short, you need salt to live. 
  • With Too Much Salt, You Also Die

    With Too Much Salt, You Also Die
    Photo: my hovercraft is full of eels / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    It may be true that you need some salt to live, but you can also die if you have too much. In the long term, too much salt can raise your blood pressure and give you heart problems. In the short term, you can actually eat so much salt that your body can no longer function. In order for this to happen, you would have to basically be force-fed more salt than any person would consume on their own, dehydrating you drastically, but it is possible. So, everything in moderation. 
  • Roman Soldiers Traded Their Pay for Salt

    Roman Soldiers Traded Their Pay for Salt
    Photo: Joanna Bourne / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    It's a common misconception that Roman soldiers were paid in salt, the origin of the modern word "salary." In reality, this is only partially true. Soldiers were given actual money, but that money was used to buy salt, which at the time was a very valuable and necessary item. The Latin word salarium was the term for the soldiers' pay, and from there we eventually got the word "salary."
  • Salt Used to Be More Valuable Than Gold

    Salt Used to Be More Valuable Than Gold
    Photo: Richard Jones / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    Has anyone ever told you that you were "worth your salt?" For the ancient Carthaginians, that was high praise indeed. For them, salt was valued as equal to its weight in gold, if not more! It was even sometimes called "white gold" because of its great worth. It is from this high-value trading that we get the previously mentioned compliment, so it's definitely one to take to heart. 
  • Salt Lets Your Cells "Talk"

    Salt Lets Your Cells "Talk"
    Photo: National Institutes of Health (NIH) / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    Every blood cell, every skin cell, every bone cell, every single individual cell inside your body has a little salt in it, no matter what part of the body it's in. The salt in these cells allows electrical impulses to be passed within and between cells, allowing different parts of the body to communicate with one another, and for the cell to communicate with itself. 
  • We Sprinkle More Salt on the Street Than on Our Food

    We Sprinkle More Salt on the Street Than on Our Food
    Photo: adam hilliker / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    One would think that most of the salt that we process is used for food, but that's simply not the case. The vast majority of salt, almost 70% of it, goes into industrial chemicals. Only 6% is actually meant for food, which is less than the 8% used on roads every winter to get rid of snow and ice. That's right, our streets consume more salt every year than we do.