Although sodium chloride (salt) gets a bad rap, it’s essential for the body. Sodium helps transmit nerve impulses and balance fluid levels. However, we need only a small amount of salt for it to function. Consume too much of it, and you’re at risk of high blood pressure. And the average American, according to Harvard Medical School, gets nearly 20 times that much.
Most salt, the Harvard experts say, come from prepared and processed foods: Chips, deli meat, soups, even juice. Fast food is also a major culprit. It may take some effort to change salt-heavy eating habits, but your health is worth it. Here, from Harvard Medical, are five ways to slash sodium:
Experiment with alternate flavor enhancers. Try spices, herbs, garlic, ginger, citrus and vinegars. Use spices and other flavor enhancers. Add flavor to your favorite dishes with spices, dried and fresh herbs, roots (such as garlic and ginger), citrus, vinegars, and wine. Your palate will appreciate the new taste sensations!
Focus on healthy fats. Using good fats, from roasted nuts, avocados and olive, canola, soybean, and other oils — adds great salt-free flavor.
Forget frying. Instead, sear, sauté, and roast. Searing and sautéing builds flavor, while roasting accents the natural good flavor of many vegetables and as well as If you do steam or microwave food, perk up these dishes with a finishing drizzle of flavorful oil and a squeeze of citrus.
Rely on a variety of sources for whole grain. Even though whole-grain bread is a healthier choice than white, it can have a lot of sodium (both for flavor and to make sure that the dough rises properly.) Instead, the Harvard experts suggest trying a Mediterranean-inspired whole-grain salad with chopped vegetables, nuts, and legumes, perhaps a small amount of cheese, herbs and spices, and healthy oils and vinegar or citrus. Have a breakfast of steel-cut oats or other intact whole grains, accompanied by fruit. Instead of toast for breakfast, cook up steel-cut oats, farro, or other intact whole grains with fresh or dried fruit.
Overall, choose raw vegetables with great natural flavor. That reduces the need for sodium. You might also consider buying from local farmers’ markets, which ensures that your food will be as fresh as possible.