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I used to do it without even thinking: Reach for the salt shaker before tasting my food and sprinkle with reckless abandon. What I didn’t know then is that too much salt increases our risk of everything from high blood pressure to stroke. Yet for some of us, cutting back on salt is much tougher than it sounds. My taste buds seriously crave the stuff, so what’s a girl with a wicked salty-tooth to do?
Turns out I’m not alone in my sodium addiction. According to public health experts, most Americans consume far more salt than we need—much of it coming from processed, packaged foods. (And it’s not just found in potato chips and frozen dinners; you’ll even find high sodium levels in soda pop and breakfast cereals.) The Centers for Disease Control recommends we eat no more than 2,300 milligrams per day (about 1 teaspoon).
By eating more fresh, whole foods, we’re already on the road to reducing our salt intake. Eating seasonally can also help, since peak season fruits and vegetables are imbued with the fullest possible flavor, negating the need not only for added salt, but sugar and fat, too.
Reducing salt doesn’t mean relinquishing the pleasure that we derive from food. To give each meal a boost while reducing your salt intake, try these flavor-infused ideas:
Dried red pepper flakes When your taste buds tell you they need more flavor, add a dash of red pepper flakes or chili powder. A touch of heat can rev up the flavor without overwhelming it.
Nuts Toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews add a savory richness that can curb cravings for both added salt and extra fat. Try adding a teaspoon or two to steamed vegetables, salads, or pastas.
Citrus zest Fine tendrils of dried lemon, lime, and orange create an extraordinary depth of flavor when used as a garnish before serving, and citrus zest works equally well in sweet and savory dishes.
Garlic Fresh or dried, garlic gives a supercharged flavor boost. Try crushing an extra clove into soups and dips in place of salt.
Fresh herbs Parsley, cilantro, basil, and other green herbs enhance the flavor of everything from soups and casseroles to fruit salads. The more piquant the herb, the less salt you’ll crave.