Eat Less Salt, More Herbs For Heart Health

Julia Little  |  August 4, 2014

Sodium is one very common flavoring used to enhance foods. While many people enjoy its taste, it also has some serious drawbacks that can endanger the health of anyone who eats too much of it. Senior living communities often make it a priority to provide foods low in sodium, but because it's used in so many different foods, it can be hard to cut out of your diet entirely. However, with proper care and planning, you can greatly reduce the amount that you eat.

Since many people eat so much more sodium today than their bodies need, there's little danger of cutting too much from your diet, and because it's mainly used to make food taste better, one of the simplest ways to knock it out is to replace it with other spices. That's why Less Salt, More Herbs Day, August 29, is a great time to start down the path to lower sodium.

Spice up your cooking
If you're used to going out to eat or buying food premade, you can cut a lot of sodium out of your diet by just cooking at home instead. However, you may find that the meals you make yourself lack the kind of punch you get from restaurants. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offered some suggestions on picking the right herbs and spices for your meals.

To spice up beef, pork, greens or potatoes, your best bet is to use onion and pepper. These two ingredients, and generally any spice with a stronger taste, can add the same kick that you're used to getting from salt. According to the NHLBI, the best fit for lighter options, such as chicken, fish and corn, is paprika. This dried chili pepper mixture also has some power to it, so while it doesn't closely mimic the taste of salt, it's spicy enough that you may find you don't even miss the sodium.

Slash the sodium
To help people reduce their salt intake, the American Heart Association has launched a new website called Sodium Breakup. The site offers tips and resources to guide users toward healthy eating choices that reduce salt but not taste. To start with, the AHA shared some simple tips that anyone can follow to lower the salt in their diet:

  • The AHA recommends using herbs and spices as well. There are so many varieties available that you'll always have new combinations to try, but if you want to branch out even more, adding vinegar and citrus juice to foods will give you nearly endless options.
  • If you can't give up a favorite high-sodium food entirely, try just eating smaller portions. That way you won't have cravings for something you can't eat, and you'll still be eating healthier.
  • Sodium can sneak into your diet from surprising sources, such as condiments and meat. Dressings and dips can contain lots of salt, even if they don't taste like it. Poultry is often injected with sodium solutions or saline. According to the AHA, 4 ounces of meat should contain fewer than 100 milligrams of sodium.
  • Different brands of the same product can have large differences in the amount of sodium they contain. Pay close attention to food labels and don't be afraid to shop around.
  • Add a side dish that's high in potassium, which helps the body get rid of sodium and decreases blood pressure. Beans, potatoes, greens, oranges and bananas are all high in this helpful nutrient.
  • Look for the AHA's Heart-Check label. Products with this red and white seal meet the organization's guidelines for heart health, which include low sodium content.

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