Sodium, the nutrient we get from salt, is necessary and good for you. It’s an electrolyte that helps regulate electrical impulses and water retention. Too much salt, though, can cause problems with blood pressure, makes you retain too much water (bloating, yuck), and creates kidney problems, just for starters.
You might need to cut back on salt if your doctor asked you to, you just love it too much, or if you’re particularly sensitive to sodium.
The easiest way to cut down on salt is to cut down on processed foods. Once you’ve done that, there are plenty of other ways to add flavor to your meals besides that shaker of table salt or bottle of soy sauce.
Poor pepper–it lives right there next to the salt, but often gets short shrift. If you’re not using pepper now, add a little and see how you like it. Pepper adds heat without burning.
A little lemon juice or zest packs a fresh punch of flavor. Be sure to add juice at the end of cooking, or you’ll lose the fresh pop.
Products like Alsosalt and Salt Sense are sodium-free, but made to taste like salt. Check with your doctor to make sure your body can take the extra potassium. As with all nutrients, balance is key. You don’t want to trade one health problem for another.
Instead of using the salt shaker, put a shaker of an herb blend on the kitchen table when you feel like your dinner needs a little something extra. Popular brands include Mrs. Dash, Penzey’s “Mural of Flavor,” Spike Salt-Free, and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute.
If you like heat, try adding different types of fresh peppers and hot chiles to your meals. Make sure you check the label of your favorite hot sauce, as they often have a lot of sodium added.
Ever notice on cooking shows that judges often note the lack of acidity in a dish? Vinegar can balance out sweetness and add complexity. Stock up on different types of vinegar, like red wine and balsamic. Watch out for seasoned rice vinegar, as it comes with sugar and salt added.
Sushi lovers might enjoy using kelp granules on their food or kombu in broths. Check the label, but many brands have 10 percent the amount of sodium a similar serving of salt might have.
This isn’t an alternative or substitute, but a good thing to think about. A teaspoon of kosher salt has about half the sodium of a teaspoon of table salt. There’s just less volume.
If you just can’t give up salt, leave it out of of the cooking process. When your meal is done, place a few grains of finishing salt like fleur de sel, sel gris, or flake salt on top of your finished dish. You’ll get a real (enjoyable) salt taste that you can really savor, instead of bombarding your taste buds with every bite.