Alison Tierney, RD
Did you know that nine in 10 Americans, ages 2 and older, eat too much sodium?
You may be wondering how much sodium is too much. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is based on scientific evidence, recommends limiting daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams, which equals one teaspoon of salt. Anyone with high blood pressure or at risk for the condition should have no more than 1,500 milligrams, or less than three-fourths of a teaspoon, per day.
It’s estimated that the average American consumes at least 3,300 milligrams per day. Over time, having too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants tend to be high in sodium.
There are several things you can do to reduce your sodium intake:
- Limit processed foods
- Eat out less
- Follow a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Read nutrition facts labels
- Limit or avoid adding salt to foods when cooking at home
Cooking with less salt may not sound appealing at first. But it’s easy to do if you swap out salt for herbs and spices. Today is National More Herbs, Less Salt Day—yes, there is such a day—the perfect time to commit to good nutrition by cutting back on sodium. Here are six herbs and spices that you can use instead of salt to add flavor:
Turmeric: This spice contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Try adding turmeric to black pepper and olive oil, and use it as a rub for chicken, fish and vegetables. It’ll turn your food a yellow color, too.
Garlic: Along with onions and shallots, garlic is in the class of allium vegetables. Studies suggest the organosulfar in these vegetables may help reduce the risk of stomach cancer. Garlic is very versatile and can be added to many dishes, including meats, vegetables and pastas.
Ginger: Gingerol and zingerone are components of ginger that may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Try adding ginger to lentils or rice for a unique flavor, or create a relaxing tea by dropping a few slices into hot water.
Black pepper: Piperine is an antioxidant in black pepper that may help prevent the growth of breast cancer cells. Try adding black pepper to scrambled eggs, soups and casseroles. You can also use it to replace salt in dishes.
Cayenne pepper: Not only does cayenne pepper add great flavor and some heat to foods, it contains capsaicin, a powerful antioxidant. Try sprinkling cayenne pepper on popcorn, adding it to dips or mixing it with other spices.
Oregano: Carvacrol, a component of oregano—as well as marjoram, mint, thyme, basil and parsley—may help prevent the spread of cancer cells. The options with oregano are endless. Try adding to marinades, pizza, pasta dishes, vegetables, poultry, fish and meat.
Incorporating more herbs—fresh or dried—and spices into your cooking can help reduce your overall sodium intake while mixing up the flavor profile of your meals. Enjoy the new flavors while benefiting your health!
Learn about the benefits of good nutrition.