Salt comes is in most of the foods we enjoy, from the soy sauce and ketchup in our refrigerators to the dressings on our salads and the mashed potatoes on our plates. That”s why it”s important to know how to spot sodium-rich foods so that you can avoid them and improve your diet.
Luckily, low-sodium cooking isn”t as tough as it sounds. With a few simple guidelines and recipes, you can be well on your way to healthier living and a lower blood pressure.
Low-Sodium Diet and Processed Foods
Processed foods, in particular, contain massive amounts of salt. From frozen entrees and canned soups to fast-food hamburgers and fries, processed foods rank among the biggest salt culprits in America.
On a low-salt diet or a reduced-salt diet, you don”t have to entirely avoid processed foods. However, when you do eat these foods, check the nutrition label first. Consume only processed foods that are low in sodium.
In general, dont consume more than 2,500 mg of salt, about one teaspoon, per day. People with congestive heart failure (CHF) and hypertension, however, should aim for 1,500 mg, roughly half a teaspoon, per day. To help yourself meet these requirements, try removing the saltshaker from your table.
Naturally Low-Salt Foods
Another way to eat a salt-reduced diet is to select foods naturally low in sodium. Whether selecting meat, vegetables or fruit, make an effort to always buy fresh. Unlike their processed counterparts, most fresh foods contain virtually no salt.
If you can”t eat fresh, then keep your canned or frozen foods simple. For instance, plain frozen vegetables usually have little to no sodium. The same holds true for dried beans, rice, peas and lentils.
A low-sodium diet doesn”t mean you have to cut out your favorite foods. Just use your creativity to find substitutes for your high-salt favorites. For instance, instead of cooking a country ham, try a lean pork loin. Also, instead of salting your dishes, experiment with herbs and spices, such as garlic, dill and rosemary. Lemon and lime also make excellent flavorings, particularly on vegetables, poultry and seafood.
Cooking from scratch is the best way to control your salt intake. Choose from the recipes below, all of which contain less than 300 mg of sodium per serving.
Chicken and Cilantro Salad
(adapted from Chicken and Basil Salad recipe from Dr. Gourmet)
This zesty dish packs flavor into every bite and works well as a light lunch or dinner.
Sodium: 225 mg per serving
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 fresh limes, juiced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp shallots, minced
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup dry white wine.
- Combine lime juice, shallots, garlic, salt, olive oil and honey in mixing bowl and chill for at least two hours.
- Place water and wine in shallow pan on high heat. Reduce heat to medium just before boiling.
- Add chicken breasts and cook for about 10 minutes, or until just done.
- Remove chicken and cut into strips three to four inches long and about 1/2 inch wide.
- Place the strips in a bowl and add chilled lime mixture and toss.
- Add cilantro and toss again.
- Refrigerate at least four hours before serving.
Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Red Peppers
(adapted from Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers from the Mayo Clinic)
Portobello mushrooms make a health-friendly alternative to beef hamburgers.
Sodium: 140 mg per serving
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 4 large Portobello mushroom caps, stems removed
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (add more for extra heat)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
- 4 whole-wheat buns, toasted
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 4 romaine lettuce leaves.
- Wash mushrooms with damp cloth and place in dish stem-side up.
- Combine vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, crushed red pepper, rosemary and olive oil. Whisk and drizzle over mushrooms.
- Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Turn mushrooms once during this time.
- Prepare grill by coating rack or broiler pan with cooking spray.
- Grill mushrooms four to six inches from fire on medium heat. Turn often and cook about five minutes on each side, or until tender. Baste with mixture while cooking.
- If desired, place sliced red pepper on aluminum foil (prepared with cooking spray) and grill for four to five minutes, or until softened.
- Place each mushroom on toasted bun with red peppers, one onion slice and lettuce leaf. Serve immediately.