Low sodium diet: How to add flavor to your dishes with less salt

Without salt, we would “sink in a sea of ​​blandness,” wrote Samin Nosrat in his spiritual book, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” noting that “salt has an effect.” affects flavor more than any other ingredient.”

“Salt awakens flavor in the pan and awakens the taste buds of whatever it touches,” says Steven Satterfield, James Beard Award-winning chef at Miller Union restaurant in Atlanta. In addition to amplifying a food’s natural flavor, he says, salt can block bitter compounds like spices from raw beets and reveal the root’s hidden sweetness.

In recent weeks, US Food and Drug Administration reminded us of another truth about sodium, which many of us get from salt: The average American consumes too much — about 3,400 milligrams per day. (For healthy adults, the recommended daily limit for sodium according to federal nutrition guidelines is 2,300 milligrams — the equivalent of about a teaspoon of table salt.) Excess has been linked to episodes of pain. heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other chronic diseases, adding to the burden of U.S. medical costs.

However, salt and sodium are not the same thing. The salt we consume, a crystal-like compound chemically known as sodium chloride, is our body’s main source of sodium, a mineral essential for proper muscle and nerve function, hydration blood pressure regulation and other biological processes. In other words, we need a certain amount of salt to survive. Determining how much is a tricky part.

For those at high risk of hypertension, the American Heart Association recommends aiming for 1,500 milligrams.

However, the biggest culprit isn’t salt. About 70% of the sodium in the American diet is hidden in commercially prepared foods and restaurant meals, according to FDA. To help people better manage their intake, the agency on October 13 called on the food industry to Voluntarily reducing sodium in their 163 product categories.
Cookbook author Carly Knowles is a registered dietitian and personal chef.
The aim is to reduce sodium by 12% in the general population over the next two and a half years. That would still be well above the 2,300-milligram target limit, but registered dietitian nutritionists like Carly Knowles realize the wisdom behind that approach.
“Most of my patients are busy professionals or parents of young children who don’t have time to cook or don’t enjoy cooking,” says Knowles, who is also a private chef, licensed doula and is the author of “Nutritionist’s kitchen“cooking book”. Since most of the sodium comes from commercially prepared and processed foods such as frozen pizzas, canned soups, burgers and flavored snacks, my biggest challenge is helping them find healthy alternatives that don’t take too long to make and still taste good.”
Carly Knowles, author of

She says that cooking at home, reading labels and trying new flavors are all effective strategies to reduce salt intake. She adds that salt-free seasoning mixes made with herbs and spices can also help.

Fats taste natural, and Knowles recommends adding a small source of healthy fats to your food just before serving, such as a tablespoon of nut butter in your oatmeal or a drizzle of olive oil. onto your chicken.

The most important thing, however, is to build a diet around unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods. Although sodium is naturally present in some foods, such as cow’s milk and beets, this amount is often very small, especially when compared to processed foods such as industrial breads and Ham. And they’re also great sources of potassium, as are other natural foods, including bananas, legumes, baked potatoes, avocados, and seafood.

Learn farro and other superfood whole grains

Potassium regulates blood pressure along with other electrolytes like sodium, Knowles says. And most people don’t get enough. So increasing your potassium intake, while reducing sodium, can do double duty in helping to lower blood pressure.

But use caution when switching to commercial salt substitutes to swap sodium chloride for potassium chloride. As Cleveland Clinic website points out, in addition to having a slightly metallic taste that some people find unpleasant, they can raise blood potassium levels to dangerous levels in people with kidney disease and other medical conditions.
Nik Sharma, author of the cookbook
Nik Sharma, a food writer turned molecular biologist who dedicated an entire chapter to exploring how salt works in the critically acclaimed 2020 cookbook,The Taste Equation: The Science of Delicious Cooking Explained. “” But there are ingredients you can add to distract the mind of your salt search. “A squeeze of lemon, a delightful splash of vinegar, a spoonful of tamarind sauce or a broth made with umami-rich dried shiitake mushrooms are some of his favorites.

Cooking techniques such as roasting, grilling, marinating, and smoking can also add layers of complexity. Sharma even discovered that some dishes that are usually salted taste better without salt.

Here are some other easy switches to consider to cut sodium without sacrificing flavor.

1. Easy to eat bread

Bread and cakes are one of the biggest causes of sodium overload. One large roll or two slices of bread can contain up to 300 milligrams. There are healthier ways to satisfy your starchy cravings. A simple baked potato is low in sodium and is one of the best sources of potassium around. Knowles recommends exploring the multitude of nutrient-dense whole grains with appealing textures and flavors that are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, such as Organic barley and quinoa.

2. Move the hearty vegetables to the center of the plate

Add herbs and spices to enhance the flavor without adding too much salt.
Sodium levels in meat, chicken and seafood are all on the map – a relatively low number if it’s fresh and natural; some are shockingly high if it is injected with a sodium-containing solution, as is often the case with supermarket chicken. Read the label or ask the butcher. However, most fruits and vegetables have little or no sodium, are low in calories, and many other nutrients. Satterfield finds creative ways to maximize their flavor with herbs, spices, acids and cooking techniques that make it easy to cut down on salt. And by adding some nuts for protein, you probably won’t miss the meat. Add some brown rice or other healthy grains and call it a meal.
Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta prepares colorful veggies for a fresh, crunchy salad.

3. Instead of canned or bottled tomato products, use fresh tomatoes

Ketchup, ketchup, ketchup, canned tomato soup, commercial spaghetti sauce, and bottled salsa are all handy shortcuts to a flavorful meal. They also tend to be high in sodium, unless you choose low-salt or no-salt varieties. But a large fresh tomato, or one cup of cherry tomatoes, contains less than 10 milligrams, not to mention a host of other nutrients, and contains no corn syrup or other additives to make up for lost sodium.

4. Build a Better Salad

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Bottled salad dressings can strip away some of the good nutrients in the salt and the bad stuff in a flash. Instead, try topping your greens with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar (or squeeze a lemon) directly into the bowl. No need to measure, just find the 3:1 ratio between oil and acid. The more flavorful the greens and olive oil, the less salt you will have. Adding fresh herbs, citrus zest, toasted nuts, or fresh or dried fruit to the mix will also enhance the flavor without adding salt.

5. Instead of sugary canned cereals, start your day with oatmeal or another hot cereal

Although instant oatmeal is high in sodium, neither regular cooking nor quick cooking is available. Enhance flavor and nutrients by topping with fresh or dried fruit, toasted nuts, brown or honey sugar or roasted nuts.

6. Make your own spice mix

There are many commercial herbal blends on the market today, but it’s simpler and cheaper to make your own with anything in your spice rack.

Susan Puckett is the former culinary editor of the Atlanta Constitution Review and the author of “Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South.”


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