What’s Shaking? Less Salt!

Salt Shaker

Thinking about cutting back your salt intake?  Worried about your blood pressure?  Has your doctor suggested that you cut back your salt intake as a health precaution?  Even though you know it might be the right thing to do, you might be hesitant.  You might be afraid your food will be bland and tasteless with less salt.

Don’t worry.  It won’t be as tough a transition as you think.  The reason that we all love salt so much is that it is so prevalent in the foods we eat.  Often, when a food doesn’t have a particularly great flavor, salt is heaped upon it to make it more palatable.  That’s not because salt is the only answer, just that it is usually the cheapest, easiest answer for companies who only care that you buy their products, not that the products are good for you.

So, what reducing your salt intake comes down to, in large part, is retraining your taste buds to not expect so much salt.  That is not as difficult as you may think.  You just have to slowly reduce the amount of salt you use in your dishes over time.  You’ll be surprised that even early on you might be able to cut the salt you use by 25% or more without sacrificing much taste.  With time, your sense of taste will become more sensitive and a small amount of salt will go much farther than you ever imagined.  Eventually, foods with the amount of salt that you prefer now, will taste too salty to you.

But what will I do without salt?
Our taste buds can distinguish four main taste sensations: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.  So, that gives us three other taste sensations to work with that we can use separately or in concert to create wonderful flavors that we can enjoy.

But flavor is determined by much more than just our taste buds.  Our other senses also play a major role in how we enjoy food.  Aroma, texture, visual appeal and temperature are all important factors affecting how flavor is perceived.  For example, if you eat a cookie in a room that is filled with a foul odor, it will not taste very good to you.  That is true even if you ate a cookie that tastes exactly the same as one you had enjoyed in the past.  Or have a glass of chilled cabernet or a glass of warm chardonnay.  Just not the same is it?

So, you can compensate for reduced salt by serving food in a way that appeals to your other senses and adding some different herbs and spices to perk up the flavor in creative ways.  After a while, you will realize that you don’t even miss the salt.

What can I use instead of salt?
There are many flavors that you can add to your meals instead of salt.  Experiment to see what you like the best.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Other herbs and spices: Get creative.  Try some herbs that you might not use as often.  Oregano, paprika, basil, parsley, garlic, rosemary, thyme and pepper can all be good choices, depending on what you are preparing.  And there are many other herbs and spices to titillate your taste buds, as well.  If you are not very creative when it comes to spices, look for saltless spice mixes.  There are varieties for every occasion.
  2. Vinegar: Try adding a little vinegar in combination with other spices, such as pepper, to your meals. You will notice the flavor of your meal can sometimes be enhanced substantially.
  3. Lemon juice: A few drops of lemon juice can add a lot of flavor to your meal.  So, try adding some lemon juice next time.

Sources of Salt
Also beware that sodium can come from sources other than table salt.  So, make sure to read the labels of the ingredients you use and limit or avoid products that contain baking powder, baking soda, brine, garlic salt, kelp, MSG (monosodium glutamate), sea salt, sodium citrate, sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, sodium saccharin and soy sauce.

Cutting back on your salt intake, won’t mean that you’ll enjoy your food any less.  You’ll just enjoy different flavors that happen to be much healthier for you.  And after a while you will stop longing for salt.  That is right, there is flavor without salt!

Comments (3)

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  1. Mark says:

    Retraining the taste buds is a challenge for me. I add lots of garlic and or spices instead of salt. Very timely post!

  2. Arunn says:

    Doesn’t this hold also for reducing sugar?

    There is a saying in Tamil that goes “Food without Salt goes to Trash”… 🙂

  3. Maria Isabel says:

    Yes, you can use other spices to enhance the taste of what you eat. I use vinegar, lemon, wine, garlic, and other spices to replace salt. Your podcast just confirms what I already do. Thanks

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