Cooking without salt

Definition

Sodium is one of the main elements in NaCl or table salt. It is added to many foods to enhance the flavor. Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure.

Eating a low-salt diet is an important way to take care of your heart. Most people eat about 3400 mg of sodium a day. This is about twice as much as the American Heart Association recommends. Most healthy people should have no more than 2400 mg of salt a day. People over 51, and those who have high blood pressure, should limit sodium to 1500 mg a day or less.

To get down to a healthy level, learn how to trim the excess salt from your diet.

Alternative Names

DASH diet; High blood pressure - DASH; Hypertension - DASH; Low-salt diet - DASH

Avoid Prepared Foods

Processed foods make dinner prep easy. But they account for 75% of the sodium in the American diet. This includes:

A healthy level of sodium is 140 mg or less per serving. If you use prepared foods, limit sodium by:

Also, use small amounts of condiments like ketchup, mustard, and soy sauce. Even the low-salt versions are often high in sodium.

Bring on the Fresh Produce

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of flavor and nutrition.

Try Salt-free Cooking

Explore cooking with salt substitutes.

Read the labels on spice mixes. Some have added salt.

To add a little heat and spice, try:

Help Yourself to Herbs and Spices.

Herbs and spices provide a mix of flavors. If you are not sure what spices to use, do a taste test. Mix a small pinch of a spice or spice mix into a lump of low-fat cream cheese. Let it sit for an hour or more, then try it and see if you like it.

Try these flavors to liven up your meals without salt.

Herbs and spices on vegetables:

Herbs and spices on meat:

Source: Flavor That Food, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Adjust to Less Salt

You will notice a difference when you first start cooking without salt. Fortunately, your sense of taste will change. After a period of adjustment, most people stop missing salt and start enjoying the other flavors of food.

Salt-free Recipe

There are many great tasting salt-free recipes. Here's one you can try.

Chicken and Spanish Rice

  1. In a large skillet, sauté onions and green peppers in oil for 5 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Add tomato sauce and spices. Heat through.
  3. Add cooked rice and chicken. Heat through.

*To reduce sodium, use one 4-oz (120 g) can of low-sodium tomato sauce and one 4-oz (120 g) can of regular tomato sauce.

Source: Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH, U.S. Health and Human Services.

References

Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(25 Pt B):2960-2984. PMID: 24239922 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24239922.

US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Updated December 2015. health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed January 15, 2016.

US Department of Health and Human Services. Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH, NIH Pub. No. 06-4082. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/new_dash.pdf. Accessed May 5, 2016.


Review Date: 4/24/2016
Reviewed By: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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