We’ve all heard how important it is to reduce the amount of salt we consume. Eating too much salt can increase blood pressure, which puts unnecessary stress on our hearts, arteries, and kidneys.
However, we’ve also heard that salt is the key to making our food taste good.
The truth is, there are lots of other ways to season your food, too! While a good pinch of salt is certainly okay every now and then, here are a five things you can try to reduce the sodium in your diet:
1. Choose foods in their natural, whole state as often as you can. Ideally, we should all consume less than 2,300 mg of salt daily (1,500 mg if you have high blood pressure or another cardiovascular disease/risk), but most of us eat closer to 3,400 mg per day. Around 75 percent of that comes from processed foods!
2. If you do need to buy something prepared or processed, look for low sodium, no salt added, or salt free options. Think canned beans, tomato products, stocks and soups, and herb blends.
3. Cook at home. The easiest way to control the amount of salt you eat is to make your own food! Try leaving the salt out of your pasta water or cutting the amount of salt in half in recipes.
4. Replace salt with other seasonings. We do this all the time in the Project Angel Heart kitchen, so we can testify that you really can achieve big flavor without salt! We recommend replacing it with:
- Fresh/dried herbs
- Lemon or lime juice
- Garlic & onion powder
5. Make your own herb blends. We do this in the Project Angel Heart kitchen, too, since most spice blends that are available in bulk contain lots of salt. To make at home, simply combine the ingredients in a jar, shake it up, and store in a cool, dry place. Then rub or sprinkle on your food for flavor.
Chinese Five Spice for chicken, fish, or pork:
- 1/4 cup ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds
Mixed Herb Blend for salads, pasta, steamed vegetables, soup, or fish:
- 1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
- 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dill weed
- 1 tablespoon celery flakes
Italian Blend for tomato-based soups and sauces, pasta, chicken, pizza, and bread:
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
(See uscfhealth.org for more info on salt-free herb blends)
Start with small changes and in two to three weeks, you’ll start to notice your taste buds change. Salty foods you ate before will now taste TOO salty, because you’ve re-trained your taste buds to appreciate natural flavors!
Try it now with a heart-healthy recipe from the Project Angel Heart kitchen:
- Italian braised beef stew with penne
- Heart-healthy black bean and corn salsa
- Creole braised chicken with yellow rice
This post was originally published on February 14, 2017
Meghan Perkins is Project Angel Heart’s registered dietitian. After a semester studying baking and pastry arts at culinary school, Meghan quickly found her passion for clinical nutrition and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado to earn her bachelor’s degree in dietetics. Meghan has worked in clinical and private practice settings, educating patients about how their food choices impact their health with an emphasis on CKD, diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, and weight management. In her free time, Meghan enjoys exploring Denver by bike with her husband, trying new coffee and tea shops, hiking in Crested Butte, and relaxing with her dog Barney.
Kevin Giles is Project Angel Heart’s modified meals assistant. Kevin grew up in Dallas, Texas where he spent most of his time working in kitchens and attending a technical high school that taught culinary arts. In 2011, Kevin made the move to Denver to attend Johnson & Wales, and graduated with his degree in Culinary Nutrition in 2015. Kevin enjoys spending time snuggling with his two cats and going to the gym.