Adapting recipes to reduce sodium

By Alethea Price

UK Extension Agent

February was National Heart Health Month so I think we should talk about things we can do to help our hearts stay strong.

High sodium diets (fast food, processed food, etc) begin to wear on your heart making it weak. High sodium diets increase your chances of developing heart disease. I promise it’s easy to cut back on the sodium without sacrificing flavor. You can trust me, I eat a low sodium diet, with a few splurges every once and a while, and I still enjoy the foods I make.

Some people mistakenly think sodium and salt are the same ingredient. Sodium is a mineral, while salt is a naturally occurring chemical compound made up of both sodium and chloride. Salt is the major source of sodium in the diet. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium. The daily recommended amount of sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams.

Research shows that high amounts of sodium and low amounts of calcium and potassium are linked to high blood pressure. Since salt is an acquired taste, cutting back on salt a little at a time will allow your tastebuds to adjust. Replace the saltshaker on the table with the subtle flavors of herbs and spices or lower-salt seasoning mixes. These are a great way to replace salt in your diet. Experiment with small amounts of fresh or dried herbs and spices to find seasonings your family likes.

Start with 1 teaspoon of mild herbs or spices, such as basil, cinnamon, cumin, lemon pepper, or oregano per six servings. For strong herbs or spices, such as allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, or tarragon, start with only 1/4 teaspoon per six servings. Ground herbs are stronger than dried which are stronger than fresh.

If a recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of ground herbs, use 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of dried or 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs.

One of my favorite salt free seasonings to use on just about…well pretty much anything is Italian seasoning. It’s great on chicken, fish, beef, white beans (seriously try it on white beans), potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, well you get the idea.

I’m also a huge fan of just about any salt free seasoning blend you can find at your local grocery store. There are so many options out there nowadays that it’s honestly easy to pick a variety of flavors that don’t include salt. One of my favorite flavors is chipotle, put it on pork in the slow cooker, shred it and make tacos. Delicious.

Canned or frozen vegetables can be a hidden source of sodium. Choose frozen vegetables without sauces, or use no-salt-added canned goods. Rinsing canned vegetables will help reduce sodium. Any processed product you use will likely also have hidden sources of salt.

In most recipes, omit the salt or reduce it by half (except in products with yeast). Try this table seasoning to reduce your acquired taste for salt that you add at the table.

Table Seasoning

Yield: 1/2 cup

Blend 2 tablespoons each of dry mustard, onion powder, and paprika; 2 teaspoons each of garlic powder, white pepper, and ground thyme; and 1/2 teaspoon ground basil together.  Store in a tightly covered container.

For more information on how to be heart healthy year round email me at a.price@uky.edu or stop by the Boyle County Extension Office for some free recipes.