Salt is an important mineral that is responsible for the regulation of water balance in the body. Before the advent of refrigeration and chemical methods, salt was important as a way to preserve food. Salt is present in every kitchen because of its ability to enhance the flavors of foods and add the savory flavor we are already accustomed to.
We are all born with a taste for salt, and we are taught to love it even more! Today, some commercial baby foods are still prepared with salt, so you should check the ingredient list before purchasing any new product. A certain amount of sodium must be obtained from food, it is found in vegetables (tomatoes, celery, beets, etc.) and drinking water. Americans consume sodium in excess amounts, we tend to try to reduce it.
What foods contain sodium? All processed foods (canned and frozen) are flavored with sodium (except fruits, which are treated with sugar as a preservative). So, read labels carefully. Pickled foods (cucumbers, peppers, capers, olives, etc.), breakfast cereals, commercially prepared baked goods, cereals, and instant soups all contain sodium unless specifically stated to contain sodium. Sauces and condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, soy sauce, etc.) and snacks (like chips or popcorn) are also high in sodium.
A great source of anxiety (for the client or patient) and frustration (for the restaurant chef) is that if salt is not added, the dish becomes tasteless. If we think about the richness of tastes of each menu item, we can choose the appropriate seasonings. Salt is just an easy way out, but we shouldn’t look for easy ways!
For healthy people, the USDA recommends no more than 2500 milligrams of sodium (about one teaspoon) per day. Sodium restriction may be more stringent – up to 250 mg per day – for critically ill heart and kidney patients. Low-sodium diets typically limit salt and baking soda, canned and pickled vegetables, tomato paste, sauerkraut, prepared salad dressings, instant cereals or soups, potato chips, which may contain sodium gluminate, and salt.
If you decide to purchase specialty products, it is important to be able to decipher the terminology of the label. A “no sodium” product can have up to 5 mg of sodium per serving, a “very low sodium” product has up to 35 mg of salt, and a “low sodium” product can have up to 140 mg of salt.
Table salt is sodium chloride, which is mined in salt mines or in the ocean. Iodized salt is table salt with added sodium or potassium iodide, which is essential for thyroid health. If you prefer to get iodine from another source, eat seaweed. Kosher salt contains only sodium chloride and undergoes minimal processing (it is coarse grained for this reason). Sea salt is sodium chloride obtained from the evaporation of ocean water. All of these salts are high in sodium.
Make a commitment to expand your nutritional palette with natural ingredients such as fresh and dried herbs and spices. Check your pantries to see if you have flavor ammo.
Savory herbs like basil, bay leaf, thyme, lemon balm, savory, and cilantro can spice up casseroles, soups, and sauces. Chili and peppers (fresh or dried) add liveliness to ethnic and other dishes, as do fresh or dried ginger, garlic, horseradish, powdered curry mixes.
Citrus fruits (lemon, grapefruit, tangerine) can be used to add sourness to dishes. Vinegars and wines can also be used. Onions add flavor and spiciness to dishes.
Vegans generally consume less sodium than meat eaters. If you need to severely limit your sodium intake, you can explore some alternative baking ingredients such as potassium bicarbonate instead of regular baking soda.
The key to reducing salt and making your meals taste better is to increase the amount of added ingredients. Add frozen vegetables to your soup for optimal flavor. Use a variety of herbal combinations.
Use a variety of colors, such as a red or green bell pepper ring, pink grapefruit slice, orange slice, or tomato slice, to spice up the dish. No salt? No problem!
Here are some tips:
The taste of beans can be enhanced with chili peppers, cloves, dry mustard, and ginger. Asparagus comes alive with sesame seeds, basil and onions. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.) are delicious with paprika, onions, marjoram, nutmeg, and onions. Cabbage will sound in a new way with cumin and allspice. Season the tomatoes with oregano, basil and dill. Spinach and other greens are good with thyme and garlic. Carrots are delicious with citrus fruits, ginger, nutmeg. Mushroom soups are great with ginger, oregano, white pepper, bay leaf, or chili. Onion soup is transformed with curry, cloves and garlic. Vegetable soups get spicy with fennel, cumin, rosemary, cilantro and sage.