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Halt! Put Down that Salt!

February 20, 2012

Do you find it difficult to put the salt shaker down?  Well, you’re not alone.  Americans are consuming way too much salt and it is contributing to many health consequences.  Statistics show that the average adult in the United States consumes about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt every day.  This amounts to 3,450 milligrams (mg) of sodium, just from salt alone (there is 2,300 mg of sodium in one teaspoon of salt).  Add the sodium content of convenience foods and processed foods which are abundant in today’s society and the average American is consuming over 5,000 mg of sodium each day.  This is way over the recommended amount of 2,300 mg TOTAL sodium per day, or 1,500 mg if you are age 51 or older, African American, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.      

When I discuss with my patients the need to reduce their sodium intake, they all groan “the food won’t taste good.”  So how can you lower your salt and total sodium consumption but still enjoy your food?  

First step:  The majority of sodium that Americans consume comes directly from processed foods such as soups, sauces, dry mixes, canned foods, and condiments.  So start by swapping out these types of foods with more fresh wholesome foods like fresh fruits, veggies and lean protein.  If your budget limits how much fresh food you can purchase and you need to buy some canned vegetables and beans, buy the “no salt added” varieties or rinse them before eating.  This will decrease the sodium content by about one third. 

Second step:  Read food labels and opt for lower sodium varieties of your favorite foods.  Low sodium is defined as less than or equal to 140 mg of sodium per serving.

Third step:  Eat more home-cooked meals and avoid fast foods and frozen convenience foods which are loaded with sodium.

Final step:  Reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking and at the table.  There are a HUGE variety of spices and herbs that you have been missing out on.  Fresh or even dry herbs are low in sodium and will bring new flavors to your food and plate.

Here are some pairings I think you will enjoy!

Beef:                Basil, caraway, curry, cumin, grape jelly, oregano, parsley

Fish:                Bayleaf, basil, dill, ginger, lemon juice, tarragon, thyme, sage

Pork:               Apple, applesauce, chives, cloves, coriander, garlic, tarragon, wine

Poultry:         Basil, chives, cloves, cumin, curry, garlic, marjoram, nutmeg, orange slices, pineapple, saffron, rosemary

Veal:               Apricots, curry, ginger, mushrooms, oregano, paprika

Lamb:             Cloves, curry, dill, mint, onion, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme

Eggs:               Curry, dry mustard, garlic, nutmeg, paprika, tomato, fresh mushrooms

Vegetables:  Garlic, lemon, vinegar, chives, dill, parsley, mint, marjoram, nutmeg, basil 

Here’s another idea:  Replace the salt in your salt shaker with the following spice blend:

5 teaspoons onion powder, 2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder, 2 ½ teaspoons paprika, 2 ½ teaspoons dry mustard, 1 ½ teaspoons thyme leaves (crushed), ½ teaspoon white pepper, ¼ teaspoon celery seed.

Set a goal:  Each week use a little less salt and try a new herb or spice in a favorite dish. 

I can’t wait to hear how this goes and what your favorite herb i

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