If you are healthy, salt in your diet really shouldn’t be something to lose sleep over. Did you know that us humans have a self-regulating system that allows our body to achieve sodium balance? When sodium levels drop below 3,000 mg, 2 amazing hormones – angiotensin and aldosterone, begin to rise, causing our bodies to hang onto the remaining sodium, and our brain to signal to us that we need salt, and therefore, we experience cravings.
However, too much of that action, and it can have an effect on our vascular health. If we are healthy, our body has mechanisms to get rid of excess sodium through sweat and urine but it is still wise to try to maintain a healthy diet and not go gung-ho with the salt shaker.
Health reasons aside, by being aware of the sodium in your ingredients, you will also become a more active participant in building and balancing the tastes in a dish.
By being “sodium mindful,” you can season your dishes consciously; sometimes opting for a less salty product and other times, choosing it on purpose for a flavour advantage—like using a bit of Parmesan or chopped anchovies to perk things up instead of plain salt from the shaker.
Just a few places you may find sneaky sodium:
Soy sauce, Teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, and miso all contain a lot of sodium. So if you need or prefer to limit your sodium intake, try other natural ingredients such as tomatoes, green tea, and mushrooms.
The Spice Rack
Certain spices, like garlic powder and mustard powder, may come padded with salt. Many store-bought blends also contain salt as a part of their flavour equation. So whether it is a BBQ rub or a specific curry mix, check labels on packaging to find out if salt has been added. Alternatively, try making your own blends at home
Depending on the brand, some bread may have up to 200 mg of sodium in 1 slice, which is far from terrible, but a good reminder to choose your loaf wisely. Make morning toast count by picking one brimming with other flavours from the likes of oats, whole grains, herbs, nuts, and seeds. And if you feel inspired, make your own!
Not all frozen veg are treated equal. Some products, like peas, will contain no sodium while others contain upwards of 100mg per cup, depending on the brand. The difference? Pre-seasoning and blanching—a technique used to quickly cook vegetables while maintaining a vibrant colour, often using salted water. Just be aware and avoid salty overload by giving vegetables a taste first before adding your own pinch.
This is usually the biggest sodium shock for those reading the carton for the first time. One cup of cow milk equals about 100mg of sodium. A small cup of yogurt means about the same. And buttermilk and condensed milk land at 250mg and 400mg per cup, depending on product. Even nut milks and soy milks contribute around 100mg of sodium per cup. This doesn’t mean you should avoid milk, just be mindful.
Salt is one of the most important parts of the pickling and preserving process. And while you don’t need salt to get a pickle-ish taste—vinegar plus strong herbs and spices will get the job done.
So, what should we consider when we’re shopping, eating, cooking?
Try and go for whole foods, not pre-packaged.
Up your intake of potassium as this mineral works in tandem with sodium to help maintain a healthy fluid balance (probably more important that solely focussing on reducing sodium). Fruit and veg are great sources, especially lima beans, butternut pumpkin and cooked spinach.