Low-sodium diets: How to add flavor to your food with less salt

Without salt, we would be “adrift in a sea of ​​sweetness,” as Samin Nasrat wrote in her original book, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” noting that “salt has a greater effect on flavor than any other ingredient.”

Stephen Satterfield, James Beard Award-winning chef at Miller Union in Atlanta, said salt “masses flavors in a skillet and awakens the taste of anything it touches.” Aside from amplifying foods’ natural flavors, he said, salt can dampen bitter compounds like spices from raw radishes and reveal the vegetables’ hidden sweetness.

In recent weeks, the FDA has reminded us of another fact about sodium, which many of us get from salt: The average American consumes a lot of it—about 3,400 milligrams a day. (For healthy adults, the recommended daily limit for sodium set by federal dietary guidelines is 2,300 milligrams — the equivalent of about a teaspoon of table salt.) Excess excess has been linked to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and other chronic diseases, and the burden of American health costs.

But salt and sodium are not the same thing. The salt we consume, a crystal-like compound whose chemical name is sodium chloride, is a major source of sodium in our bodies, a mineral essential for healthy muscle and nerve function, hydration, blood pressure regulation and other biological processes. In other words, we need a certain amount of salt to survive. Determine how much the hard part is.

For those at risk of developing high blood pressure, the American Heart Association advises taking 1,500 milligrams.

However, the biggest culprit is not the salt navigator. About 70% of the sodium in Americans’ diets is hidden in commercially processed foods and restaurant meals, according to the Food and Drug Administration. To help people better manage their intake, the agency on October 13 called on the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium in 163 categories of their products.
The goal is to reduce sodium by 12% in the total population over the next two and a half years. That would still be well above the target limit of 2,300 milligrams, but registered nutritionists like Carly Knowles understand the wisdom behind this approach.
Knowles, who is also a private chef, doula licensed and author of “The Nutritionist’s Kitchen” cookbook. “Since most of the sodium comes from commercially prepared and highly processed foods like frozen pizza, canned soup, burgers, and flavored snacks, my biggest challenge is helping them find healthy alternatives that don’t take a lot of time to prepare and still taste good.”
Carly Knowles, author of ";  The Nutritionist "  kitchen & quot;  He says that cooking at home and reading labels can help you reduce your salt intake.

She said cooking at home, reading labels and trying new tastes are all effective strategies to reduce salt intake. She added that salt-free seasoning blends made with herbs and spices can also help.

Fat carries a natural flavor, and Knowles suggested adding a small amount of a healthy fat source to your food right before serving, such as a spoonful of nut butter in oatmeal or a sprinkle of olive oil over the chicken.

Most importantly, build a diet around whole foods that are not processed or minimally processed. Although sodium is naturally present in some of these foods, such as cow’s milk and beets, the amount, she said, is very small, especially when compared to processed foods like commercial bread and cold cuts. They are also great sources of potassium, as are other natural foods, including bananas, legumes, baked potatoes, avocados, and seafood.

Learn about farro and other premium whole grains

Knowles said potassium lowers blood pressure along with other electrolytes like sodium. And most people don’t get enough. So, increasing your potassium intake, while decreasing sodium, can do two things in helping to lower blood pressure.

But be careful not to resort to commercial salt substitutes that replace sodium chloride with potassium chloride. As the Cleveland Clinic website notes, along with a slightly metallic taste that some find objectionable, they can raise blood potassium to risky levels in people with kidney disease and other medical conditions.
Nick Sharma, author of the cookbook "  The Flavor Equation "The Flavor Equation"  It is suggested to add lemon juice or spoonful of tamarind paste or broth made with shiitakes if there is no salt.
“The Equation of Flavor: Explaining the Brilliant Culinary Science, no ingredient can truly mimic the taste of salt,” said Nick Sharma, a molecular biologist turned food writer who devoted a chapter to exploring how salt works in his critically acclaimed 2020 book. “But there are ingredients you can add that distract you from searching for salt.” Among his favorites are lemon juice, a sprinkle of interesting vinegar, a spoonful of tamarind paste or a broth made from dried umami-rich shiitake mushrooms.

Cooking techniques such as roasting, grilling, and smoking can also add layers of complex flavor. Sharma even discovered that some dishes that normally invoke salt taste better without it.

Here are some other easy keys to keep in mind to cut back on sodium, without the chopping flavor.

1. Slow down on the bread

Bread and pastries are the biggest contributors to excess sodium. One large roll or two slices of bread can contain 300 milligrams. There are healthier ways to satisfy your starch craving. Baked potatoes are low in sodium and are one of the best sources of potassium. Knowles recommends exploring the myriad types of nutrient-packed whole grains with appealing textures and flavors that are increasingly becoming available to consumers, such as organic barley and quinoa.

2. Transfer the creamy vegetables to the center of the plate

Season vegetables with herbs and spices to boost flavor without adding extra salt.
Sodium levels in meat, chicken, and seafood are all over the map – some relatively low if fresh and natural; Some are shockingly high if injected with a solution containing sodium, as is often the case with chicken in the supermarket. Read the label or ask the butcher. However, most fruits and vegetables have little or no sodium, few calories and large amounts of other nutrients. Satterfield finds creative ways to maximize its flavor using herbs, spices, acids, and cooking techniques that make it easy to reduce salt. And by tossing in some nuts for protein, you probably won’t miss out on meat either. Add some plain brown rice or another healthy grain and call it a meal.
Try this recipe: Stephen Satterfield Sweet Salad
Chef Stephen Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta prepares colorful root vegetables for a fresh, crunchy salad.

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

Ketchup, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned tomato soup, commercial spaghetti sauce, and canned sauce are all easy shortcuts to delicious meals. They also tend to be loaded with sodium, unless you’re eating the low-salt or no-salt variety. But a large fresh tomato, or a cup of cherry tomatoes, has less than 10 milligrams, not to mention a host of other nutrients, and it doesn’t contain corn syrup or any other additives to make up for the sodium loss.

4. Build a better authority

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Packaged salad dressings can drown out a pot of beneficial nutrients in salt and other things that aren’t good for you in a jiffy. Try garnishing vegetables with extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar (or lemon juice) directly in the bowl instead. No need to measure, just select a 3:1 ratio of oil to acid. The more flavor the greens and olive oil have, the less salt you’re likely to use. Adding fresh herbs, citrus zest, roasted nuts, or fresh or dried fruit to the mix will enhance the flavor without the need for salt.

5. Instead of cereal packed with sugar, start your day with oatmeal or another hot cereal

While instant oatmeal is high in sodium, regular or quick cooking does not contain any. Boost flavor and nutrients by topping them with fresh or dried fruits, toasted nuts, brown sugar, honey or toasted nuts.

6. Make your own spice blends

There are many commercial herb blends on the market now, but it’s easier and cheaper to make your own with just about anything on your spice rack.

Susan Bucket is the former food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and author of Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler Journey Through the Soul of the South.

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