Sodium should be used with caution, focus on creative ways to get that kick

Published 4:14 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Salt is a staple in the American diet. Salt is mainly sodium, when eaten in excess as we usually do, can cause high blood pressure. That’s the just the beginning of the negative health effects a high sodium diet can cause. Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, increased risk for heart attack and stroke are just a few more. Not to mention the damage it can cause to your kidneys …OK, I think you get the picture.

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Everyone, including kids, should lower their salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) a day. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and the African-American population should lower their intake to 1,500 mg per day. Reducing the amount of sodium you take in everyday can reduce your risk of developing these chronic diseases. I can’t think of a better motivation tool than good health and longevity.

Although 1 teaspoon of salt per day might sound like an unreachable goal, it really isn’t. There are plenty of simple swaps you can choose when it comes to lowering your salt intake. Try using more fresh foods instead of canned or processed foods which are often times very high in sodium.

One of the best tricks is to remove the salt shaker from the table. It’s easy to add extra salt to a dish out of habit before you even taste it. Also, try using things such as fresh herbs or salt free seasoning blends like Mrs. Dash or Chef Paul’s to add big flavor in a healthy way.

Tips to cut the salt

* Fresh foods are often low in salt. Drain and rinse canned veggies before eating.

* Spices and herbs add flavor without sodium.

* Skip store bought salad dressings and get creative with olive oil, vinegars and herbs.

* Read food labels and choose foods with 500 mg of sodium or less. Lunch meats are high in sodium, swap for beans or hummus as an alternative protein.

* Think about condiments. Foods like ketchup, soy sauce, pickles and seasoning packets are high in sodium. Choose low sodium options if available.

Cooking healthier doesn’t mean eating bland flavorless food. There are plenty of ways to get that flavor you’re looking for without pouring on the salt. Get creative in the kitchen. Play around with flavors that you enjoy.

Oregano and thyme are herbs common in Greek and Italian cooking which add a Mediterranean flavor to any dish. Cumin is a spice ground from the seed of an herb similar to parsley which can add a Latin flavor to any dish.

Check out this simple seasoning blend that you can try at home on meats, fish, and poultry. Feel free to add different herbs and spices to it to create your own house blend. Add some olive oil to this to make a rub or as a marinade.

All you need are these four components to make your own signature salad dressing recipe by substituting different ingredients that you have on hand or find at the store.

Oil: Try canola or olive oil. They have different flavors, but they both have healthy monounsaturated fats. Canola oil costs much less and will make your homemade salad dressing a bargain compared to store-bought salad dressings.

Acid: Try different flavors of vinegar or try fruit juice. With fruit juices, you can typically use more acid and less oil, making a lower-fat salad dressing.

Seasonings: Any herbs or spices, pepper, sugar, mustard, chopped fruits (such as berries or peaches), or chopped vegetables (such as onions or peppers) can be used.

Creamy dressing: Add mayo, sour cream or avocado to achieve consistency.

Salt Free Seasoning Mix

2 Tablespoons Paprika

2-3 Teaspoons Cayenne Pepper

2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder

2 Teaspoons Onion Powder

1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard

Mix all spices in a bowl. Store in an airtight container. Use for marinating chicken or in stuffing, soup or salad dressing, or use in a salt shaker on the table.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at


Want to know more? Attend a free kidney health screening and salt-free cooking workshop, Cooking Without a Grain of Salt, on Thursday. Two different sessions are offered at 9 a.m. and at 5 p.m. at the Boyle County Extension Office.

Health screenings are offered at 9-10 a.m. for the morning session, and 5-6 p.m. for the evening. Both will be followed by food demonstrations and tastings.

Low-sodium cookbooks will be given away, kitchen supplies and more. Call (859) 236-4484 to reserve a spot. This program in in partnership with the Kidney Health Alliance of Kentucky and Dialysis Clinics Inc.