How to lower sodium and enjoy your favorite foods: Before you learn how to lower sodium and enjoy your favorite foods, it is best to learn about salt and sodium first. The reason is because often time people confuse the two elements and are not sure what the difference is. Whatever the case may be the most important thing is to understand what happens to your body when you consume sodium.
What is Sodium?
Sodium, classified as an electrolyte, is a mineral that works with other electrolyte minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium, to balance the water levels in cells, stimulate nerve impulses and initiate muscle contractions. Sodium plays a vital role in regulating heart muscle contractions and controlling blood volume, making it important to the overall health of your cardiovascular system. (www.healthyeating.sfgate.com)
What is Salt?
Salt is a chemical compound formed when a mineral, also called an element, bonds with chloride, another mineral. Sodium chloride, the most common salt, occurs naturally and is found in seawater and underground salt deposits. Salt forms as tiny crystals. Different types of salt have different crystal sizes. Rock salt, for instance, has large discrete crystals while common table salt exists as fine crystals. Laboratories produce other kinds of salts, known as salt substitutes, including potassium chloride and calcium chloride. (www. healthyeating.sfgate.com) Adding salt to your food is a choice. Buying the right type of salt also makes a difference in food taste.
How to understand sodium in salt
Salt contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride, which means each teaspoon of salt, provides 2,000 milligrams of sodium. (www. healthyeating.sfgate.com) When talking about reducing sodium intake there are many steps that can be taken to ensure that you can still enjoy your favorite foods. The most important and vital way to start decreasing your sodium intake is by reading food labels and nutrition facts.
Overlooking the nutrition facts will not help you figure out how to manage your daily diet. For example, if you decide to cook my Fettuccine Pasta with Chives recipe and serve it with my Red Wine Braised Oxtail recipe this is how to figure it out. To make the Fettuccine with Chives and Garlic, the pasta is first cooked in water with 1-teaspoon (2000 milligrams of sodium) salt added. The pasta is then cooked in a mixture of fresh chives, olive oil, fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, ground black pepper and then topped with Parmesan cheese, which is about 75mg of sodium per 2 teaspoons. The total of 6,000 milligrams of sodium is for one dish and not the serving size and that’s probably your thoughts as well. When the pasta was cooking in the salted boiling water, the salt diluted in the water and the pasta was seasoned. So in reality you are not consuming the whole amount but just a small amount of sodium that is if you only used 1 teaspoon of salt. And you are also not swallowing a full teaspoon of salt. For the Red Wine Braised Oxtail, the meat is cooked with a mixture of fresh and dried spices, wine (no sodium content available), and 3 cups (48 teaspoons per cup) of beef broth or 96,000 milligrams sodium. Those numbers are not accurate because a scientifically measurement process was not utilized. But you can have an idea on taste because you can manage the seasoning.
If you try to do the calculation yourself for any of the dishes you prepare, the numbers will scare you. But in reality, it is how you rationalize the portions, how you season your foods, how you mix ingredients together and how you manage your daily diet. Every food item you put in your mouth counts. The more you learn how to read the nutrition facts that are available in most packaging the better it will be to moderate your sodium intake.
It is unfortunate that when eating at a restaurant the luxury of knowing these facts are not available. But you can certainly determine if a dish has too much salt or not. It does not matter if you consume a lot of salt or not, you will notice the difference right away because your body will be on alert.
The bright side in controlling and moderating your salt intake is as soon as you taste a food, your taste buds will alert you. You will know if your food has too much salt or not. Your taste buds will become accustomed to changes made to your diet and your body will be on high alert. Many individuals who have made drastic changes to their diet will tell you that they get headaches if a food has more than the amount of salt they are use to. Therefore there is no excuse not to train our body to eat properly.
Sodium and salt cannot be entirely removed because the body needs these two elements to function. To keep enjoying your favorite foods you will have to be more aware of what you can eat and what you can no longer eat. Being diligent and moderation is key. Complete elimination is not the answer and you should consult a doctor for more advice.
Reducing 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 teaspoon of salt in your dish is a healthy change. Salt is a silent killer that takes many lives everyday. It is never too late to slow down or to reduce your salt or sodium intake. It is all about managing your diet and drinking a lot of water to cleanse your system daily. A proper diet is a step forward to a healthy recovery.
Many of our dishes contain low sodium; feel free to browse our recipe collection.
Originally published March 2, 2016. Updated and republished.