What most people perceive as a “flavorful” meal is usually laden with high amounts of salt. The problem is, eating too much sodium can lead to numerous health issues, most notably hypertension. Typically, healthcare professionals recommend sticking to 1500mg of sodium or less each day. If you’re going out to eat all the time, it can be really difficult to control your salt intake and stay under the 1500mg mark, so it’s best to eat home cooked meals that give you more control over the types of ingredients used.
While restaurants use high amounts salt as a shortcut to flavor, that doesn’t mean that low sodium meals made at home have to be bland – you just have to get creative! Here are 5 natural salt alternatives that will take your low sodium meals from tasteless to tasty.
1. Herbs & Spices
If your spice cabinet just has salt and pepper in it, it’s time to expand your horizons! Using fresh herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, and oregano can add complexity and freshness to dishes without the salt. For spices, one trick to upping the flavor is grinding the spices yourself – for example taking whole cumin seeds and toasting them in a pan before pulsing them in a coffee grinder. Not only to herbs and spices taste great, but they’re also good for you. Many contain essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants that fight cancer-causing free radicals.
2. Acid (Citrus Juice & Vinegar)
Often, when a dish tastes bland, what it really needs is acid as opposed to salt. A squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of apple cider vinegar adds brightness to dishes that can actually resemble the flavor of salt.
3. Citrus Zest
The most concentrated flavors in a citrus fruit aren’t in the juice, but in the peel. When you’re zesting, be careful to not grate the white pulp of the fruit, which is usually quite bitter.
4. Infused Oils
Using flavored oils like truffle oil or garlic-infused oil adds complexity to a dish without the salt. You can make infused oils at home, or purchase them from your local grocery store. Keep in mind that infused oils work best for finishing dishes rather than sautéing, as most infused-oils are lighter and have a low smoke point.
5. Beer & Wine
Using beer and wine in your cooking can add flavor to soups, stews, sauces, and braised dishes. The acidity in wine especially can brighten dishes, similar to citrus and vinegar.