How Do I Start A Low Sodium Diet?
By Debbie Benson
People almost always go on a low sodium diet because of the advice from their doctor. Many different health issues cause doctors to recommend lowering sodium. These include heart health, a stroke, kidney health, Meniere's disease, edema, or just weight loss and general health.
A low sodium diet contains less than 1,500 mg to 2,000 mg of sodium intake per day. That's less than a teaspoon of salt. It will seem like you cannot cut out salt entirely. For one thing, it would be virtually impossible in today's world of processed foods. So you will need to stop eating processed foods. Learn to prepare your food from scratch. You know the human body requires some sodium. The problem is that it only requires less than 500 mg a day, which is 1/6 of what the average diet contains. This low amount of sodium can be achieved by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Enough sodium and no salt needed.
So, once your doctor tells you to lower your sodium where do you begin?
A low salt diet literally begins at home. Get rid of the salt shaker and don't use any salt to cook with. The prime suspects are actually your spice rack and refrigerator. Go through both and look at the ingredient list on every item. If salt is one of the top ingredients, get rid of it. Also look at the nutrition facts, but be careful, those can be misleading. Get rid of anything containing more than 5% of the recommended daily value of sodium. Don't despair as you look at your cleaned out fridge and spice rack. Now it's time to refill your refrigerator with low sodium foods and your spice rack with salt-free seasonings and single herbs, spices and peppercorns because freshly ground pepper tastes best and you'll need granulated garlic and granulated onion.
Low sodium does not mean low flavor. In fact, not depending on salt for flavor allows you to explore more tastes and expand your taste buds. Chicken is a most versatile meat and goes well with paprika, rosemary, tarragon, sage, thyme, marjoram, and unexpected spices like ginger. Beef works with oregano, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and even nutmeg or cinnamon. Dill, dry mustard, thyme, fennel, and chervil are good for fish. International cuisines offer a variety of spices and flavors, and you can consider adding a little spice to your dishes such as curry blends which shouldn't contain salt. Also, jerk seasonings, Italian and some chili seasonings do not have salt in them. Using different herbs, spices, salt-free seasonings and a salt substitute is crucial for lowering the sodium in your diet.
What exactly is a salt substitute?
Salt substitutes are mostly potassium chloride, which not everyone can use. Because of this potassium, many folks can detect a flavor similar to salt. Just make sure with your doctor that potassium chloride is allowed. Granules of seaweed like kelp is also an alternative to salt. There are many different salt alternatives available for times when another seasoning just won't do.
You can also use natural flavors to get a salty flavor without using salt. Fresh lemon has the natural flavor closest to salt, and most any citrus fruit will help. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice, not enough to taste too lemony, will give you a similar reaction as salt. Lemon zest (the yellow skin) also works, just make sure to use fresh lemons. Different types of vinegar are good substitutes for salt. Vinegar is available in a wide variety of flavors so you can choose exactly what flavor profile you want. Avoid seasoned rice vinegar, which usually contains salt.
Where can I find low sodium recipes? So, now that you have low sodium foods and seasonings, what do you do with them? You can always take your favorite recipes and just substitute the new ingredients. This idea doesn't work as well as most folks hope. Your food won't taste like you are used to. Cooking without salt successfully, needs different cooking techniques and more seasoning to overcome bland. With the number of people on no salt diets, there are a lot of low sodium recipes available. Many cookbooks are easily accessible or you can simply check the internet.
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