When sodium pops up in the news these days, the conversation most often focuses on where it hides (bread, milk, processed items) and how to avoid it (don’t eat these foods). This conversation holds essential information for those keeping a low-sodium diet, but with all the “cannots,” “do not’s,” and “should not’s,” it is also a message that often leaves people feeling empty instead of full.
Do you like beets, celery, or meat? Did you know they all contain sodium, too?
A single beet has 65 milligrams of sodium, celery has 50 milligrams of sodium per large stalk, and a chicken breast contains around 70 milligrams of sodium per serving, and the majority of whole foods contain some amount of sodium, too. The point isn’t to say that you should start avoiding the produce aisle and the butcher counter along with those foods that “hide” sodium, but instead, it’s that there’s a way to bring that “salty” taste back to your favorite dishes.
How can I eat less salt?
There are a number of simple ways that you can reduce your salt intake. By understanding the truth behind some common salt myths, learning how to read labels and understanding which foods are high in salt, you can watch what you’re eating at home and when you’re eating out. Click on the links on the left to find out how to keep your salt intake under control.
Recommended maximum salt intakes
|Age||Maximum Salt Intake|
|0-6 months||<1g / day|
|6-12 months||1g / day|
|1-3 years||2g / day|
|4-6 years||3g / day|
|7-10 years||5g / day|
|11 years and above||6g / day|
Give yourself time to adjust Many of us have developed a preference for salty flavours due to years of eating manufactured foods with a high salt content as well as the use of salt as seasoning. Initially when you reduce your salt intake foods tend to taste bland, but after two or three weeks you will start to taste the real and delicious flavour of natural food. Give yourself time to adjust. In the tips for eating at home, you’ll find alternative ways of adding flavour to your food.
What’s the difference between sea salt and table salt?
The main differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste, texture and processing.
Sea salt is produced through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes, usually with little processing. Depending on the water source, this leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements. The minerals add flavor and color to sea salt, which also comes in a variety of coarseness levels.
Table salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits. Table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt also has added iodine, an essential nutrient that helps maintain a healthy thyroid.
Sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often promoted as being healthier. Sea salt and table salt contain comparable amounts of sodium by weight.
Whichever type of salt you enjoy, do so in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day.
Sodium Rich Foods You Should Include In Your Diet
Here are some high-sodium whole foods that will add depth and flavor to your cooking. These foods are natural in flavor, nutrition powerhouses, and they can boost and balance your meals. This list will pleasantly surprise you, and will show you that there is actually some sodium that you can enjoy.
Seafood is among the best source of sodium in food varieties available. Different types of seafood like cod, shrimps, crabs, mussels, octopus, scallops, shrimp, squid, lobsters, clams, oysters etc. are all good sources of sodium. Wakame (a sea vegetable) and seaweed kelp which tastes and looks like spinach are the richest sources of sodium.
BEETS Red and gold and with around 65 milligrams of sodium per beet, these vibrant root vegetables may become your favorite salt substitute. Simply slice and bake them to make stand-in potato chips, blend them and add them to homemade vegetable juice for a fresh take on the classic Bloody Mary, or roast them and add them to salads or pasta sauces for a bright, earthy kick. And in sum: don’t fear the beet. Use it to your cooking advantage (just wear gloves).
CELERY and CARROTS There is a very good reason that celery and carrots make up two-thirds of a mirepoix, otherwise known as the holy trinity of French stocks. With 50 milligrams of sodium in both a large stock of celery and a large carrot, these vegetables provide that familiar savory flavor in soups and stews, without several pinches of salt. They’re a great crunch and salty bite to tuna and chicken salads. Roasted, boiled, or raw, celery and carrots are great kitchen staples to have on hand. As for seasoning, look for salt-free celery seeds to boost the salty taste in everything from baked chicken to green beans to homemade mac and cheese.
MEAT It’s common practice to save bones for soup and stocks, but when it comes to low-sodium cooking, don’t forget about the juices. Whether you are sautéing ground beef (75 milligrams per serving, raw) or cooking a lamb chop (around 65 milligrams per serving, raw), the leftover browned bits and meat oils can be recycled when cooking other ingredients. For example, instead of using oil or butter, sauté vegetables in a little bit of the cooked meat fat. Or, after slow-roasting chicken, remove the breasts and thighs from the Crock-Pot and add in beans or grains to soak up the meaty leftovers.
Foods that are often high in salt
|Anchovies Bacon Cheese Chips (if salt added) Coated chicken e.g. nuggets Corn snacks e.g. Wotsits Gravy granules||Ham Noodle snacks pots Olives Pickles Potato snacks e.g. Hula Hoops Prawns Salami||Salted and dry roasted nuts Salt fish Sausages Smoked meat and fish Soy sauce Stock cubes and bouillon Yeast extract e.g. Marmite|
Foods where some brands are high in salt
|Baked beans Biscuits Burgers Breakfast cereals Bread and bread products Cakes and pastries||Cooking sauces Crisps Filled pasta Pasta sauces Pizza Potato croquettes||Ready meals Soup Sandwiches Sausages Tinned pasta Tomato Ketchup|
Foods that are low in salt
|Breakfast cereals* e.g. Shredded Wheat Couscous Eggs Emmental Fresh fish Fresh meat and poultry Fromage frais||Fruit and Vegetables (dried, fresh, frozen and tinned)** Homemade bread* Homemade sauces* Homemade soup* Mozzarella Pasta and Rice Plain cheese spreads||Plain cottage cheese Plain popcorn Porridge oats Pulses (peas, beans, lentils)** Ricotta Seeds Unsalted nuts Yogurt|
* with no added salt ** choose tinned products with no added salt
SPINACH and CHARD Have you tasted sautéed spinach lately? When boiled without anything else, it packs 125 milligrams of sodium per cup and a powerful salty taste. And similarly, a cup of cooked Swiss chard contains more than 300 milligrams of sodium, providing another “salty” side dish. So when rounding out a meal, choose these greens to complement lower-sodium entrées. Use them in place of lettuce for a more surprising salad, or swap them in for basil to make a vitamin-rich and slightly “salty” pesto sauce.
Italians were onto something when they paired prosciutto with melon. This sweet fruit has 130 milligrams of sodium per large cantaloupe, or about 25 milligrams of sodium per cup of cubed melon. Which means it complements and enhances the taste of savory ingredients and makes a great low-sodium snack to help curb cravings when that “salt tooth” strikes.
SHRIMP and SHELLFISH
While most fish runs relatively low on the sodium scale, its ocean brethren can top the natural sodium charts. Shrimp, lobster, crab, and scallops (to name a few) can all contain hundreds of milligrams of sodium per 3-ounce serving, which means adding a little bit to pastas, risottos, and stews can bump up that “salty” taste. And saving the shells will add flavor to homemade stock and sauces. But do note: Because of brining and other treatments, the sodium values found in shellfish can increase greatly from the time they leave the sea to the moment they hit the store. So while fresh is nice, sometimes buying frozen shellfish with nutritional labels will help you make the best decisions for your diet.
Here’s a fact that might blow your mind: one large artichoke contains three times as much sodium (150 milligrams) as 3 ounces of snapper (50 milligrams). And almost twice as much as a single egg (70 milligrams). Just more evidence that sodium occurs in the most unexpected places, and knowing these numbers becomes essential to making the most of your ingredients and eating well on a low-sodium diet.
Most well-known as the base ingredient for Japanese dashi broth, kombu is an awesome ingredient to keep on hand if you’re watching your sodium intake but still want that salty taste. A single leaf of dried sea kelp mixed with boiling water makes a quick “salty” stock for soups, gravies, stews, and risottos. Also, keep a look out for kelp “salt substitutes” to use on the table in place of the shaker
Also known as Carambola, this is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. This wild fruit contains small amounts of sugar, sodium and citric acid.
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Yes, you heard it right. Dairy products such as milk, buttermilk, paneer, curd, and cheese are some of the other sources of sodium. These days’ dairy products even contain salt and preservatives which increases the level of sodium in them.
Fruits are another great source of sodium. Fruits contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals along with sodium, which is very useful for the human body in required quantities. The fruits that contain sodium include dried figs, olives, fresh figs, watermelon, plums, grapefruit, bananas, grapes, passion fruit and cantaloupe. Fruit juices like orange, grape, and pineapple also contain sodium due to the addition of salt and preservatives.
Some spices also include sodium. Hence, their usage in every day food can provide sodium to the body. These spices are mustard, chili powder, cloves, celery seed, cumin, saffron, spearmint, coriander leaf, dill, mace, curry powder and onion powder.
Dried herbs like chervil, marjoram, tarragon and thyme also contain small amounts of sodium.
Beverages like black tea, tea, coffee, beer and wine have high amounts of sodium present in them. Hence, they can fulfill the amount of sodium required by your body but these must be taken in small quantities due to the caffeine content in these beverages.
Coconut milk contains calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates as well as sodium. Sodium is also available in puddings, coconut cream, dry mix, instant mix prepared with 2% milk etc.
Some important tips for you:
- Under-consumption of sodium can lead to Hyponatremia; hence try to meet the daily sodium need of your body.
- Avoid using too much of sodium to prevent health issues. Use only fresh ingredients and/or foods with minimal or no salt added.
- Stop buying convenience foods such as canned soups, vegetables; pasta and rice mixes; frozen dinners; instant cereal, pudding, gravy, and sauce mixes.
- Always check sodium levels in any food product before you buy it.