Early Saturday morning, my teen aged sister and I sat down for a little morning chat. In the middle of talking, she jumped up to begin preparing breakfast. In the background behind her chatter, I could hear the toaster going, the microwave beeping, and eggs being beaten.
Then, I hear the salt shaker.
I kind of paused in mid-sentence. I said, “Wait. How do you know your eggs need salt if… you didn’t even taste them, yet?”
“I don’t know… that’s what Mom does.”
How many places do we sneak a little salt? Do you salt your food at restaurants because you just “know” it isn’t seasoned enough? Do you eat a lot of canned or boxed foods? What about your meats – do you check to see if they’re salted before you cook with them? Do you use things like “Garlic salt,” “seasoned salt” or “onion salt” on top of regular iodized salt or sea salt? Do you salt your canned soups, even though they already have – on average – a day’s worth of sodium in each can? And let’s face it – who really splits a can of soup? Not everyone.
When you make baked goods, how much salt do you use? Do you keep tabs on the amount of salt in your processed foods? I’m not even gonna ask about the amount of salt in your favorite fast food dish. I’m just gonna tell you… it’s probably a lot. Salt and sodium hide in places we’d least expect it, which is why consciousness is so important.
If the recommended daily allowance of salt in your diet is only somewhere around 2400mg, then having an order of chili cheese fries from Dairy Queen with 2,550mg of sodium in it seems excessive, right? Aside from having 1,200 calories and being a total fat bomb, slaughtering your daily intake of salt in one sitting does you no favors, trust me.
Our foods come full of salt because certain amounts of it trigger emotional responses in our bodies. Although the amount of salt that triggers the response depends on the kind of food you’re eating, the goal is always the same. To make you feel so good, that you keep coming back for more, because you want that feeling again.
I hate to say it, but that sounds like drugs. I don’t even really have to say it, because there are several studies that say the same. The principle in play, here, is pretty simple. To sum it up, it goes like this:
Our brains have chemical reactions to the food we put in our bodies. As many of us know, chemicals in the brain like serotonin and dopamine play a big part in our moods. Three key ingredients play a major role in the reaction our brains have to the foods we’re eating: sugar, fat, and salt. If a food has an excess of salt in it – without reaching the point where it is unbearable to taste – then your reaction to it will likely be a “good one.” Too much salt, however, can have drastic efects on our systems, regardless of how good it may make us feel.
Having said that, it’s easy to see why foods with excess salt usually come paired with excess fat. It’s all about making you feel good… except… we shouldn’t be eating for food to make us “feel good.” Enjoy eating, sure. But it is not our problem solver.
This excess fat/excess salt combination is how high blood pressure is created. The brand new “padding” that our fatty foods gave us needs blood pumped through it, too… and our hearts have to work doubly hard to make sure that happens. Vicious cycle, isn’t it?
So… how can we cut the salt? Here are 3 quick and easy ways to start off:
- Skip the canned goods. If you’re buying canned veggies, buy frozen instead. If it’s soup you’re after, try to make it from scratch (here’s a tip: save your meat bones and boil them with veggies… save the water. That’s soup water!) Give up the canned meats altogether.
- Drop the seasoning salts. Do you use garlic salt? Go for garlic powder. Onion salt? Onion powder. Seasoned salt? Sugar, paprika, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder. Seriously, grab some different seasonings and play with ’em. Try to use no more than a pinch when you cook – especially if you have a day where you have to eat something high in salt.
- Double check your TV dinners. If you’re big on microwaveables, try to avoid the ones with too much salt in them. A single pot pie shouldn’t have 3,387mg of salt in it, alas… it happens.
I will admit it. I used to LOVE gooey-fat-nasty-juicy-salty foods. Me and my salt shaker were best friends. However, once I took the time to try to appreciate the natural saltiness in some foods combined with using different spices, I found that I couldn’t treat salt the same… and I haven’t ever since. Give it a try, and who knows – you might find something you like!
Anyone else out there run into this problem? Are you having a hard time with salt? Did you kick your salt habit? Let’s talk!
I have tons of spices I never use so I need to begin with your step of substituting diff things in place of salt.. Is sea salt better?
To me, sea salt is better, but you can use much less of it. Sea salt, to me, is meant to serve as a light tinge on the tongue… let the different herbs and spices that you use do all the flavor work! That, alone, is enough to make it better to me. You can’t do that with table salt in the same way, IMO!
Emeril Lagassi also has a Creale Seasoning mix that taste just as good without the salt you make it at home. I put it in my sausage patties that i make from scratch. I got it from the Biggest Loser Cookout. and sometimes you have to really season the ground Chicken Sausage I pwut that in there and it taste so good.
I believe for blacks the 2400mg recommendation is smaller! Ugh so I guess I should boil beans instead and stop being lazy eh? 🙁
My kitchen is just not complete without my Ethnic Bombay Curry Sauce and Garam Masala seasoning. They just seem to go well with many things. I also have ground cumin, ground mustard, chili powder, paprika, herbs, cayenne pepper, cardamom, and some other international seasonings. I really enjoy making international dishes. Next week, I’m making sushi!
Love the sharing! I’ve just recently cut salt from my diet. I’m trying to teach family, friends and loved ones the fact that salt lurks everywhere! My food is a bit bland these days, but I’m learning to appreciate the real taste of the foods I eat. I love the herb advice, I know they are essential to flavoring things up..just not quite sure of how to use them effectively (time to experiment). Anyway, keep up the great work!! Blessings.
Right on time! I just came home for lunch and instead of using seasoning salt, I used garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and REAL lemon evoo…I sauteed my brocolli and asparagus in that and it was DELISH!
I’ve found lime juice to be a good alternative to salt, especially on chicken and fish.
Lime, lemon, grapefruit, various forms of vinegar… all of it. AMAZING replacements for salt in simply creating a “bitter” element to a dish.
Good post! I was another “thats what my momma and grandma did…” salt shakers. Once I found out how much sodium where suppose to get and realized how much salt was hiding in my go to weight loss foods aka frozen foods, I decided to make the change to cut salt out. I rarely use it now and can’t remember the last time I bought table salt. I’m finding that the powders i.e garlic, onion, etc work just as good.
I was lurking for the longest, but I had to respond on this post. First I want to thank you for this site! Honestly the way you “sound” when I read each article is the way I would talk to myself!
I recently decided I’m going to phase out cache of canned beans. I log my food on another website and I noticed that I was CONSTANTLY going over my salt allowance. Despite the fact that I cook everything from scratch and barely use salt in the recipes. I discovered the canned beans were the culprit. When I looked at my bag of dried beans I was SHOCKED to see that beans, alone, don’t really have sodium!! Freakin canned goods!
I recently had to make the salt adjustment because of Congestive Heart Failure. My allowed salt intake is 1500mg per day. Initially it was very difficult because my doctors only told me what not to do – No added salt and only 1500 mg per day. With much research and experimenting I’ve learned to cut sodium by using as many sodium free ingredients as possible such as baking powder. By cutting sodium elsewhere it allows me to use more sodium in seasoning. However, I primarily use a lot of powdered seasoning and mix them with Mrs.Dash and McCormick’s Salt Free seasoning. In addition the decrease in my salt intake along with consciously cooking 98% of my daily meals I have managed to lose 67lbs over the last year.
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