Recipes for Life: Taste Without Salt

Would you believe the taste for salt is acquired, not innate? Give a new born baby a taste of salt and they will frown. Yet, by the time that baby grows up and reaches preschool, they will selectively chose salty dishes over those cooked without salt. In other words, the more salt you use, the more you want because the less you taste it.

diet index logo

It is not surprising then that the average salt consumption of each and every American tops 15 pounds per year. This is a dangerous level as a high sodium diet, the major component of salt, is a leading risk factor in developing high blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is responsible for over 170,00 deaths per year from stroke and a leading cause of heart disease and kidney failure. As our sodium intake is 20 times the required level (5000 vs. 220 mg/day), it would be wise to steer clear from the salt shaker. In fact, you can reduce your sodium intake by one-third by avoiding the use of salt. The American Heart Association recommends a sodium intake between 2000 and 3000 milligrams a day.

Yet, for those of you addicted to the taste of salt, it may be wiser to gradually reduce the amount of salt in your diet. First, reduce the amount of salt in cooking to one-half of normal use. After a few weeks, reduce salt to one-quarter or skip it altogether. In this manner, you may never miss the taste of salt because you will have given your taste buds a chance to recover from salt overload. Now you will be able to experience the real taste of food.

In the meantime, experiment with the use of herbs and seasonings. See the "tips" section for flavoring blends to use when cooking meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and/or potatoes. Marinade meats, poultry or fish in lime, lemon or orange juice, wine and spices. Fruit juices and/or wine add lots of flavor to foods without adding extra sodium or fat!

Read labels of processed foods and beware of ingredients like brine, sea salt, kelp, MSG (monosodium glutamate), soy sauce, tamari, miso and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. These ingredients can pack a punch to your sodium intake and you haven't even touched the salt shaker!

Try using Worchestershire sauce, garlic and onion powder (or fresh onions and garlic), fresh ginger and aromatic bitters. Lowsodium soy sauces can still contain a lot of sodium. Try the recipe for an alternative in the "tips" section.

You will be surprised to find how terrific food really tastes, and in time, you too will frown at the taste of salt.

Tips For Cutting Back on Salt

  • Buy canned tomato sauces and vegetables which are marked "no added salt".

  • Rinsing canned vegetables for one minute can reduce their sodium content by 40%. Rinsing water-packed canned tuna can reduce the sodium content by 75%.

  • Poach fish in 1/2 cup white wine, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp. dill and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8 to 12 minutes.

  • Here's a low-sodium soy sauce: Combine 2 tsp. lowsodium chicken bouillon in 1 cup boiling water. Add 1 tsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. vinegar, dash of dry mustard and black pepper. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to six months. Shake before use.

  • Make your own seasoning blends:

For Fish:
Blend 3/4 tsp. parsley flakes, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp. dill, 4 tsp. marjoram and 1/4 tsp. paprika.

For Meats:
Blend 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. marjoram, 3/4 tsp. rosemary and 1/2 tsp. sage.

For Poultry:
Blend 3/4 tsp. marjoram, 1/2 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. Oregano, 1/2 tsp. sage and 1/2 tsp. rosemary.

For Vegetables:
Blend 1 tsp. dry mustard, 1/2 tsp. sage, 1/2 tsp. thyme and 4 tsp. marjoram.

All Purpose Blend:
Blend 1/2 tsp. cayenne, 1 Tbsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. of the following: basil, thyme, parsley, savory, mace, onion, powder, black pepper and sage.

  • Use juices or wine as a meat, poultry or fish marinade. Try lemon or lime juice for fish and chicken, orange juice or red wine for beef, lamb or pork.

  • Grow your own herb garden. Fresh parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme are loaded with flavor. Rosemary is even drought tolerant for you "agriculturally challenged"!

Material © San Franisco Spine Center. Used by Permission.

Updated on: 02/01/10