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         Volume 10 |Issue 04 | January 28, 2011 |


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The Beet-Lobon Craze

Anika Hossain

What makes roasted peanuts sold on the roadside delicious? What makes amra (hog plum), kamranga (star fruit), chatpati, phuchka, chanachur and muri and all germ filled unhygienic street food so irresistible? I'll tell you what. Its black salt, more commonly known as beet-lobon. If you are Bangladeshi, then you are familiar with this pinkish orange, deliciously pungent smelling, heavenly condiment.

Beet-lobon is good with almost anything and once you start eating it, it's really, really difficult to stop. I tell you this from personal experience. A few weeks ago, folks up at our office canteen added beet-lobon to their menu. At first, those of us who are lovers of all things unhealthy and fattening, were so excited, we went up to the canteen at least three times a day and ate it with every greasy item they serve (puri, keema-puri, kebab, paratha, rooti, daal, halim, chop etc etc).

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and so it did. Some of us, and I am not mentioning any names, became paranoid (true to our nature) and started believing that anything that tastes this amazing can't possibly be good for us.

It started with “We should really stop, or at least reduce the amount we eat,” and “Did you know it causes kidney problems,” and “It will make you anemic!” and escalated to “hide it from Anika,” and “ We forbid you to serve it to any of us, even if we beg for it.”

I admit, eating it with doughnuts and cookies and mixing it with tea may have been the root cause of some of this alarm, but mostly it was a strong belief that beet-lobon is bad for you.

After several arguments and tantrums, I was given an assignment to find out the negative effects of this special salt and write a health piece to cure my obsession. I took the assignment grudgingly, but I actually started enjoying it once I started my research.

Beet-lobon or black salt, is made of sodium chloride and has trace impurities of sodium sulfate, iron sulfide and hydrogen sulfide. The salty taste comes from sodium chloride, and its purplish hue comes from iron sulphide. All the sulphur compounds give it a bitter taste and its characteristic smell.

Beet-Lobon – Black Salt

Although hydrogen sulphide, which is the main contributor of this smell, is toxic in nature, the amount present in beet-lobon is small and therefore not harmful for us. Some sources say that this salt is created from harad seeds, while others suggest that it is a natural halite, found in the mines. The salt crystals are black , but turn into a pinkish orange colour when they are ground to a fine powder.

Contrary to popular belief (among my colleagues and a few friends), black salt has its benefits. In North India, it is considered a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicine and is used as a digestive and laxative aid. It also helps relieve heartburn and intestinal gas. It is believed to be lower in sodium and therefore does not increase the sodium content in the blood and is used by people with high blood pressure and those who are on low-salt diets.

This salt is not only used as a remedy for constipation, hypertensive patients are also advised to have this salt instead of common salt.

Black salt is also used to cure skin swelling, and stomach swelling caused by indigestion and other illnesses. It cures stomach cramps, gastric troubles and helps reduce phlegm and other inflammation. It is also used in medicines to reduce the risks of various conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer.

Of course, large quantities of anything is bad for us and too much of black salt may cause diarrhea and low blood pressure. Did I mention it's also an aphrodisiac?

I sincerely hope that after this little rant, I will once again have access to the beet-lobon bottle hidden in the canteen and this time, be allowed to eat in peace. To my colleagues I would like to come out of the closet and finally admit:

My name is Anika and I am a beet-lobon addict.

I feel better already.


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