Ultimate Sodium Guide: Eat Less Salt!

The tenth Healthy Habits challenge: Eat less salt. Our simple guide to cutting back on America's favorite seasoning.

Reader Profile: Show Me the Flavor

“I have a very healthy diet, but my blood pressure is still higher than I would like.” - Mary Ihla: Age: 65, web designer, Minneapolis

Cooking Light Reader: Mary Ihla

Mary Ihla: Show Me the Flavor

Sara Rubinstein

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HER CHALLENGE 

Mary has been working hard to get healthier, and that includes a 50-pound weight loss, but her blood pressure numbers aren’t the best. She misses salt—a hankering that dates back to childhood. “I just crave it. When other kids were buying candy bars, I was buying sunflower seeds,” she says. However, Mary fears that reaching a healthier weight has only compounded the sodium problem. “I have noticed that when products are low in fat, they’re high in sodium. They put sodium in to add flavor.”

OUR ADVICE 

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) will be a great way for this family to enjoy food while naturally lowering Mary’s blood pressure. The eating plan emphasizes delicious, naturally-low-in-sodium veggies, whole grains, and small amounts of lean meats. Potassium, a mineral that helps balance the effects of sodium on the body, plays an important role in the diet, too. It’s been shown to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.

  • Be nice to your tongue. Your tongue has flavor receptors that recognize (and send appreciative signals to the brain about) salt. That’s why many people struggle when they try to go cold turkey. Cut back gradually: Your palate will adjust.
  • Try new herb and spice combinations. Once you’ve broken the salt cycle, herbs are a great way to enhance flavors of fresh foods. Instead of frozen French fries doused with salt, try baked potato wedges finished with fresh sage or thyme, like our Truffled Roasted Potatoes. Toss asparagus with tarragon and grated lemon rind. Swap oversalted nuts for our Sweet Chipotle Snack Mix.
  • Low fat can mean more salt. Mary caught on to a trick of some low-and no-fat foods: swapping salt (or sugar) for missing fat. Reduced-fat and fat-free sour cream have twice the sodium of regular, but with half the calories and fat. Be a label reader!
  • Eat seasonally. Rely on the season’s freshest produce for more flavor satisfaction. This month, that meansleafy greens and root vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium. Because they’re fresh, the flavor will be at its best.
  • Watch for salty soups. Canned soup is often very salty, so start making your own (freeze extra for busy nights). But know that store-bought broths can be high in sodium. Use reduced-sodium versions—it’s an easy switch. Our Turkey and Bean Chili, which uses lower-sodium chicken broth, only has 474mg sodium per serving—half the amount of some canned soups.

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