On average, Americans tend to eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium everyday – much more than the American Heart Association (AHA) and other health organizations recommend. Keeping your sodium in check is part of the overall heart-healthy eating pattern that the AHA recommends – which includes consuming fruits, vegetables and whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, limiting red meat, and sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
The AHA is grateful for volunteers, like Devin Alexander - Chef for NBC’s Biggest Loser and author, to lend her voice on topics like this. Devin shares her personal perspective as a chef in this blog entry.
It’s no mystery that salt can help boost a dish from average to amazing and can give your potato a little zing, but it can also slowly spike your blood pressure and put stress on your heart.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to cut back on salt without sacrificing that “crave” factor:
- Salt smarter: Depending where you add salt in a dish, you need less to experience the same flavor sensation. For instance, when I make my “Sweet Potato No Skins” from the Biggest Loser Quick and Easy Cookbook, I salt only the bottom of the potato rounds. Because the salt will hit your tongue directly, it will have a stronger flavor than if you divided the salt between the tops and the bottoms.
- Control “freak”!: When buying seasoning blends, I ALWAYS buy salt-free seasoning and then add just a touch of salt myself. Salt tends to be less expensive than herbs and spices, so a lot of brands use excess salt to boost volume. Many times the ratio of salt to the other spices is so high that if you use enough seasoning to actually add the amount of heat or spice, you’ve added way more salt than you even want! Particularly, if you love the kick of a Cajun or Mexican seasoning, it’s much better to add the salt on your own – you get to control it!
- Under the sea… salt: On average, people tend to use less when they grab sea salt versus table salt. The larger crystals lay on your tongue differently creating a different experience. Also, when using sea salt in recipes, 1 teaspoon of table salt contains more sodium than 1 teaspoon of sea salt. The larger flakes of sea salt allow for space to be caught in the teaspoon, resulting in less usage!
- Herb it up: Vegetables and leaner meats often need some help to taste fantastic. Aromatic spices like cumin and cayenne will add smoky-ness and a little zing, while fresh basil packs a major punch all on its own! If you’re like me and like a little heat, red pepper flakes can really liven things up, salt-free!
- Squeeze please!: Citrus hits your palate with a punch, and can be an amazing aid in livening up your meats and vegetables. Don’t forget about limes as well, they’re amazing at boosting up Mexican dishes and salads!
- Don’t quit cold turkey!: Many times when we make resolutions to eat better, hit the gym, etc, we try to go all out and therefore, get burnt out. Habits are habits after all! They take some time to change. Start scaling back your salt intake a little at a time. Once your body is used to less, scale back a little more. Pretty soon the amount of salt you used to put on your vegetables will seem unnecessary.
--Devin Alexander is the Celebrity Chef of NBC’s Biggest Loser, NY Times Bestselling Author, Weight Loss Coach & Executive Chef of Devinly Decadence on Royal Caribbean Cruiselines.