Reduce Your Salt Intake Without Ruining The Taste
You’ll have heard over and over that reducing your salt intake is important, but do you know why? What’s more, did you know that you can reduce your salt intake without ruining the taste of your food?
Without beating about the bush, excess salt can increase our risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. It can also raise your blood pressure, and damage kidneys, which can then lead to kidney disease.
The exact processes around excessive salt intake can be complex, but it is key to note that our bodies struggle to eliminate salt.
As we age, salt accumulates and the negative effects of the salt increase – which is why you’ll often only first hear that you need to cut down on salt as you reach menopause or when you get your age 50 check up.
To cut your risk from these issues, you need to reduce your salt intake.
Easy to do?
I know what you're thinking. How can I enjoy food without salt? As the key ingredient in many of our favourite dishes, as part of our most delicious snacks and as a hidden ingredient in many processed foods, salt is pretty much everywhere.
That said, I have five simple way for you to make your food instantly healthier and still taste great without added salt.
Before we get into that, it is important to note that we do need salt.
Salt is a vital nutrient that we need for many different functions in our bodies. It helps to balance our fluids, supports muscles, nerve function and is key in terms of helping us absorb and transport nutrients around our bodies.
Without salt, we couldn't function.
As a general guide (while remembering that guides are always different for everyone!) each of us requires around 6gms, or approx one level teaspoon of salt a day.
Many foods already contain salt, and I believe if we are eating mindfully and eating foods which are generally as unprocessed as possible, we shouldn't need to worry about which foods naturally contain salt as we'll be getting enough, but not too much.
It is when we add salt to our cooking, and eating highly processed foods that we find the excess salt that can cause issues.
So how do we cut excess salt without ruining our food?
1. Try something new
The first tip is to step out of your comfort zone, and simply try new ideas when it comes to cooking and eating. Trying a new restaurant or national cuisine is a great way to see how food comes together.
Testing out new ways of making old favourites is another way to expand your idea of what is possible with food and flavour.
2. Boiling water
Stop adding salt to water as you boil vegetables and pasta – they really don’t need it, and actually taste better without, once you get used to it.
If you learned to cook from someone who always insisted on adding salt to the potatoes, now is the time to step out from behind their influence and go modern! This one step can make a huge difference to your intake.
3. Make your own
Make your own sauces and soups and even breads.
Tinned sauces, such as those for pasta, often include high levels of salt (and sugar!). Swapping processed sauces for fresh (or frozen – batch cooking is king!) sauces is a simple yet effective way to reduce salt intake.
Likewise, commercial bread uses a lot of salt. Learning to make your own if you have time, or finding bread which is made using traditional methods will reduce your salt intake.
4. Herbs and spices
Find ways to get creative with herbs and spices. These traditional ingredients add flavour to your food without additional salt and will take your meals to a whole new level.
Experiment with fresh garlic, fresh or dried ginger, fresh or dried herbs like basil, mint, parsley and coriander (cilantro). Trying recipes which contain fresh herbs is a wonderful way to widen your experience of foods with fresh herbs.
5. Other flavours
See what else might add flavour to your foods without relying on salt.
Acidic ingredients such as lemon or lime juice or zest and vinegar add a real boost to food. Tomatoes or tomato puree adds a lovely rounded flavour to dishes like stews or casseroles. Miso is a little known classic which gives a really great flavour to your food.
Also consider fat. Fat tastes good, so when you remove the fat from a dish, you also take away a lot of flavour which is then often replaced with salt.
Don’t be scared of natural fat – add a little to your recipe, or at least, avoid low fat recipes, and you’ll need less salt to make it taste good!
So, there you have it. Five tips to help you make tasty food without salt.
There is just one vital point to remember:
Give it time.
As you get used to using less salt, your taste buds quickly become accustomed to different flavours. You’ll soon realise that you appreciate the taste of food rather than disguising it with salt. What tasted bland without salt will quickly become a rainbow of flavours within a few days or weeks. But it does take a little patience.
Reducing your salt intake doesn't have to mean you have to sacrifice flavour. It also doesn't mean you have to quit your favourite salted snacks.
By using the tips I've outlined above, you will be able to reduce your salt intake, which means you can still enjoy those treats without bashing your salt limit! For further suggestions on eating to beat menopause symptoms, check my tips here.