Welcome to our guide to reducing salt in your diet. Want more like this? Check out all of our guides.
Salt – It’s rampant in our food and most of us are getting WAY too much. Let’s talk about why we need to minimize it, the myth that we need it, and how to reduce salt in your diet without giving up on flavor.
Why ditch salt?
High blood pressure is a leading cause of death in the U.S. The kicker? It’s largely a choice. We treat high blood pressure as if it’s “normal” and assume it’s also “normal” for our blood pressure to climb as we age. This trend is mostly induced by lifestyle choices and salt is the biggest culprit. The INTERSALT study shows us that if we remove all salt from our diet, our blood pressure sits around 100/60 well into old age! We are literally killing ourselves with salt, and we can literally save our own life by ditching it.
How much is enough?
The idea that we need to salt our food to get enough sodium is a myth. We only need about 100-150 mg/day, an amount easily obtained from trace amounts naturally found in plant foods. It’s recommended not to exceed 1500 mg per day. This is incredibly challenging when you rely on restaurant and packaged food. Another reason to make the bulk of your meals whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
How to ditch salt
Get rid of the salt shaker. Salting our food has become so normal, but it’s actually a deadly habit. Most of us shake on the salt before we even taste our food!
Treat restaurant food as a treat. This one’s a bummer, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter how fancy or “healthy” a restaurant is, they likely use more salt than you would use at home… and any added salt is really too much.
Check out packaged food. The ideal goal is for the milligrams of sodium per serving not to exceed the calories per serving.
Re-train your taste buds
When you first start reducing salt, your food will probably taste bland. Give it time! It takes about 2-4 weeks for your salt taste receptors to re-sensitize. Once they adjust, unsalted food will no longer taste bland and salted food will likely taste unpalatable!
How to flavor food without salt
We once heard a chef call salt a lazy way to flavor food. Ditching salt unlocks a host of other flavoring agents that actually add nutrition!
- Nutritional yeast – we put it on EVERYTHING!
- Seaweed granules – this one’s a common salt substitute. Bonus: it also provides iodine.
- Herbs & spices – experiment with fresh and dried. We order dried herbs and spices in bulk on Amazon. Our staples: Italian seasoning, cayenne, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, curry powder, and black pepper.
- Citrus – squeeze fresh lime or lemon into dressings and sauces or onto anything you’re making.
- Vinegars – we make a lot of vinegar-based sauces for our meals to add extra punch. Drizzle balsamic on pasta, rice vinegar on stir fry. Blend apple cider vinegar + cashews + nutritional yeast + smoked paprika for a smoky dip for sweet potato fries.
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