Salt is good for the sea, but not me!
It is generally accepted that 8 glasses (more than 2 liters) of water is the recommended daily allowance. Sounds like a lot when you consider that the average glass is equal to less than a quarter of a liter. If you think that extra-large latte will help you get closer to your daily water goal—think again. Caffeinated drinks, alcohol and dairy-based beverages don’t count! Luckily, herbal teas and most clear juices do.
However, if you are one of the millions of adults worldwide who consume too much salt, this daily recommended intake may not be enough to counter the salt in your diet. Salt is a high-ranking ingredient in virtually all pre-packaged foods, and even in some brands of bottled water. In fact, most of the salt people consumes comes from prepared and processed foods. Topping this list are snack foods, sandwich meats, smoked/cured meats, canned juices, canned and dry soups, frozen pizza and other fast foods, and many condiments, spice mixes, and sauces.
Although many of these items are convenience products, excessive salt consumption actually begins at home. A surprisingly high amount of the salt or sodium people take in comes from the way they cook at home – daily habits. For anyone who tends to grab the salt shaker (or mill!) before you’ve tasted your food, it may be time to look for some healthy alternatives. Here are five ways to reduce the amount of salt and sodium when cooking or sitting at the table:
- Add some spice to your life! While preparing a mill add flavorful spices and other flavor enhancers. Dried and fresh herbs, roots (such as garlic, turmeric and ginger), citrus juices, vinegars, and wine or beer can boost the seasoning to most dishes. Also, using a mill to freshly grind peppercorns (black, white and red), rose salt, mustard seed, cinnamon, and nutmeg can really turn up the flavor in sauces, soups and salad dressing. Your taste buds may respond to fresh basil, oregano and sage, chili peppers, and lemon juice— and all of them have no added sodium. Fresh mint is an amazing compliment to some rice dishes and lamb.
- Get a little nutty. Nuts are loaded with healthy fats, and fats carry flavor to your taste buds. Although snacking is never recommended, if you can’t wait until mealtime almonds, cashews and walnuts are good choices. Try lightly roasting them to bring out an intensified taste.
- Flavorful oils can add zing without sodium. Flaxseed, oil, avocado and soybean or coconut oils have distinctive tastes.
- When in doubt roast or grill. Roasting in the oven brings out the natural sweetness of most vegetables (even kids love roasted broccoli) and the delicate taste of fish and chicken. Even if you decide to boil or steam, drizzling with flavored oils or squirting a bit of lemon will give them a flavorful lift.
- Whole grains are packed with flavor and you can find them in more than just bread. Did you know that salt is added to bread dough to make sure that it rises, so there’s hidden sodium in most baked goods? Try steel cut oats and other whole grains with fresh fruit or dried berries for an alternative to breakfast toast with (salted) butter.
- Shop and eat locally. Vegetables, fruits and meats are at the peak of tastiness when fresh. If your basic ingredients are fresher, you may be less likely to seek out false flavors in salting them up. Buy seasonal items in the right season.
- Check your bottled water for added sodium, especially sparkling and carbonated ones. Even some naturally occurring salts can be too much for daily consumption. Read the labels!
Remember salt retains water in the body, and can cause swelling to your joints and feet. Finding ways to reduce your salt intake may take a bit more effort, but in the end your blood pressure, joints and skin will be all the better for it!