How to take the bland out of a low-sodium diet

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Without salt, we “would be swept away in a sea of ​​dullness,” wrote Samin Nasrat in his seminal tome, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” noting that “salt has a greater effect on taste than any other ingredient.” Puts.”

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“Salt coaxes the flavors in a pan and wakes up the flavor of just about anything,” said James Beard Award-winning chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, a farm-to-table restaurant in Atlanta. In addition to enhancing the natural flavor of foods, he said, salt can suppress bitter compounds like spices from raw radishes and highlight the vegetable’s hidden sweetness.

In recent weeks, U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reminded us of another truth about sodium that many of us get from salt: The average American consumes a lot of it—about 3,400 milligrams a day. (For healthy adults, the recommended daily limit of sodium set by federal nutritional guidelines is 2,300 milligrams—the equivalent of about one teaspoon of table salt.) Excess has been linked to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and other chronic diseases. Burden of American health costs.

Yet salt and sodium are not the same thing. The salt we consume, a crystal-like compound whose chemical name is sodium chloride, is a major source of sodium in our bodies, a mineral needed to regulate proper muscle and nerve function, hydration, blood pressure and other biological processes. . In other words, we need a certain amount of salt to survive. Determining how much is the tricky part.

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For people at high risk of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends aiming for 1,500 milligrams.

The biggest culprit, however, isn’t the saltshaker. According to the FDA, about 70% of the sodium in Americans’ diets is hidden in commercially processed foods and restaurant meals. To help people better manage their intake, the agency called on the food industry on October 13 to voluntarily reduce sodium in 163 categories of its products.
It aims to see a sodium reduction of 12% in the overall population over the next two and a half years. This would still be above the 2,300-mg target range, but registered dietitians such as Carly Knowles Recognize the wisdom behind that approach.
“Most of my patients are busy professionals or parents of young children who either don’t have time to cook or don’t like to cook,” said Knowles, who is a private chef, licensed Doula and author of “.nutritionist’s kitchen“Kitchen Book”. Since most sodium comes from commercially prepared and highly processed foods such as frozen pizza, canned soups, burgers and flavored snacks, my biggest challenge is helping them find healthier options that require a lot of time to make. and still tastes good.”
Carly Knowles, author of "nutritionist's kitchen," Says cooking at home and reading labels can help you reduce your salt intake.

She said cooking at home, reading labels, and trying new flavors are all effective strategies for reducing your salt intake. She adds that salt-free spice mixes made from herbs and spices can also help.

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Fat naturally has flavor, and Knowles suggests adding small amounts of a healthy fat source to your meal just before serving, such as a spoonful of nut butter in your oatmeal or a splash of olive oil on your chicken. Drizzling.

Most important, however, is building a diet around unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods. Even though some of those foods contain sodium naturally, such as cow’s milk and beets, the amount, he said, is usually very low, especially when compared to processed foods such as commercial breads and deli meats. And they’re also great sources of potassium, as are other natural foods, including bananas, legumes, baked potatoes, avocados, and seafood.

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Potassium along with other electrolytes such as sodium regulates blood pressure, Knowles said. And most people don’t get enough. So, increasing your potassium intake can do double duty in helping lower blood pressure, while reducing sodium.

But be wary of turning to commercial salt substitutes that swap sodium chloride with potassium chloride. As The Cleveland Clinic website statesIn addition to having a slightly metallic taste, which some find objectionable, they can increase potassium in the blood to risky levels in people with kidney disease and other medical conditions.
Cookbook author Nick Sharma "taste equation," suggests adding a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of tamarind paste or a broth made from shiitake in the absence of salt.
No ingredient can truly mimic the taste of salt, says molecular biologist-turned-food writer Nick Sharma, who in his critically acclaimed 2020 cookbook devoted a chapter to getting to know how salt works. does.The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking Explained“But there are ingredients you can add that distract the mind from looking for salt.” A squeeze of lemon, an interesting splash of vinegar, a teaspoon of tamarind paste or umami-rich dried shiitake mushrooms Broth made include. Her favorite.

Cooking techniques such as roasting, grilling, searing and smoking can also add layers of complex flavor. Sharma has also discovered that some dishes that usually call for it without salt taste better.

Here are some other easy switches to consider to cut sodium, without cutting the flavor.

1. Go Easy on Bread

Bread and pastries are one of the biggest contributors to sodium overload. A large roll or two slices of bread can contain upwards of 300 milligrams. There are healthy ways to satisfy your starch cravings. A plain baked potato is low in sodium and is one of the best sources of potassium. Knowles recommends exploring the myriad varieties of nutrient-rich whole grains with appealing textures and flavors that have become increasingly available to consumers, such as Organic Barley and Quinoa,

2. Move Hearty Vegetables to the Middle of the Plate

Season your vegetables with herbs and spices to enhance the flavor without the need to add excessive salt.
Sodium levels are all over the map for meat, chicken, and seafood—some relatively low if it’s fresh and natural; Something shockingly high if it has been injected with a solution containing sodium, as is often the case with supermarket chicken. Read the label or ask the butcher. However, most fruits and vegetables contain little or no sodium, few calories, and loads of other nutrients. Satterfield finds creative ways to maximize your tastes with Herbs, Spices, Acids and cooking techniques that make reducing salt easier. And by tossing in some nuts for protein, you probably won’t even miss the meat. Add some plain brown rice or other healthy cereal and call it a meal.
Try this recipe: Steven Satterfield’s Confetti Salad
Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta prepares colorful root vegetables for fresh, crunchy salads.

3. Instead of Canned or Bottled Tomato Products, Use Fresh

Ketchup, tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned tomato soup, commercial spaghetti sauce and bottled salsa are all easy shortcuts to delicious meals. They’re also loaded with sodium, unless you go with the low-salt or no-salt variety. But one large fresh tomato, or one cup of cherry tomatoes, contains less than 10 milligrams, not to mention other nutrients, and no corn syrup or other additives to make up for sodium loss.

4. Make a Better Salad

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Bottled salad dressing can drown a bowl of nutritional goodness in salt and other not-so-good stuff in a flash. Instead try tossing your greens with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar (or a squeeze of lemon) straight into a bowl. No need to measure, just measure the ratio of oil and acid to about 3:1. The more flavorful your greens and olive oil are, the less salt you’ll be tempted to use. Adding fresh herbs, citrus zest, toasted nuts or fresh or dried fruits to the mix will also add flavor without the need for salt.

5. Instead of sweetened boxed cereals, start your day with oatmeal or any other hot cereal

While instant oatmeal is high in sodium, regular or quick cooking contains none. Add flavor and nutrients by adding fresh or dried fruits, roasted nuts, brown sugar or honey or roasted nuts.

6. Make your own spice mix

There are many commercial herbicides on the market now, but these are simple and inexpensive. to make your own Whatever is in your spice rack.

Susan Puckett Former food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and author of “Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South.”

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