Sodium and Processed Foods? DASH the Other Way!
Health professionals have been telling us for years not to pass the saltshaker. But why? After all, sodium plays an essential role inside our bodies, but too much of a good thing in fact does us no good! High sodium intake can lead to elevated blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.1 Every time you shake, rattle and roll that saltshaker over your plate, you are consuming a little more sodium, because salt, whose chemical name is sodium chloride, contains plenty of – you guessed it – sodium! One of the best ways to reduce sodium intake is to focus on fresh foods, and one of the best diets to achieve both of these goals is the DASH diet.
Whether you are passing on salt or asking to pass the salt, you may still be eating more sodium than you need. Most packaged foods, processed deli meats, canned soups, and restaurant foods are very high in sodium. In fact, it’s not the saltshaker itself but instead these food sources that provide about 75% of the sodium consumed by Americans!1 Foods that are closer to natural, often called “real food” don’t make up enough of our daily diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1500mg of sodium per day to decrease the risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke (9). Given that the average American consumes 3400mg of sodium each day, even a reduction to 2300mg/day would provide immense health benefits.3
Shake the salt out of your diet
With that in mind, here are some simple ways to shake the salt right out of your diet:
- Rinse canned beans and other vegetables before using – these are often packed in water with added salt, but rinsing decreases the sodium content by 40%.
- Choose low sodium soups, broths, salsas, sauces, processed meats (deli meats, bacon, anchovies, etc.) whenever possible. If you are eating sodium-containing versions of these foods, try to combine them with foods high in potassium such as rinsed black beans or avocado.
- Choose unsalted snacks – raw nuts, plain whole grain crackers, unsalted rice cakes, and of course fruits and vegetables!
- Freeze your own leftovers to avoid sodium-packed frozen meals – this works well with soups, tomato sauces, and casseroles.
Ok, we admit that breaking up with salt may be tough…but it can, after all, make food taste great if you explore a little! So have no fear, as there are plenty of ways to spice up your dinner by using, you guessed it – spices! Cumin, turmeric, paprika – oh my! Besides salt, most anything else that you shake on your plate is safe and DASH-approved. Get creative and make your own spice and herb blend in an old shalt or pepper shaker. We like things spicy in our home, so we put in a combination of cayenne pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, garlic powder and pepper. Reach for your blend instead of going for the salt shaker! Also keep in mind that while the sodium in salt causes it to have potentially negative effects on your body, other salt alternatives that use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride (such as NuSalt) can add flavor to your dish without wreaking havoc on your blood pressure. You can also try Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings, Trader Joes 21 herb-spice salute, Pleasoning Seasoning – all fun and flavorful spice combinations specifically blended sans salt.
Now that you’ve dashed the sodium, don’t stop there! Feel free to use other fresh and flavorful additions such as garlic and fresh herbs to add some zest back into your food and to take meals from dreary to delicious without compromising your health. Even adding lemon zest or a couple tablespoons of lemon juice can boost the flavor on meals.
A DASH Here, a DASH There
There are so many ways to spice up your low sodium eating plan. Try these spices and salt-free seasonings to dress up your dishes – or be creative and make your own spice blend!
- For grilling/roasting most vegetables, meats, poultry, or fish: try any combination of rosemary, thyme, onions, shallots, lemon, lime, whole grain mustard, black pepper, and herbs de Provence
- For Italian-inspired dishes: try garlic, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onions, crushed pepper flakes, or even a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
- For Asian-inspired dishes: try ginger, reduced sodium soy sauce, turmeric, curry powder, green onions (scallions), sesame seeds, cardamom, wasabi
- For Mexican-inspired dishes: try cilantro, lime, red onions, chilies, chili powder, adobo, crushed pepper flakes
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