7 ways to cut back on salt

A high-salt diet can lead to hypertension, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and obesity, as well as exacerbating asthma symptoms. Try these tips to make food taste great without all that shaking going on.

7 ways to cut back on salt

1. Say no to sports drinks

  • Research does indicate that endurance athletes need higher levels of salt and far more to drink than everyday folk.
  • Sports drinks deliver both – they are rich in salt, which not only provides the necessary sodium but also stokes continued thirst.
  • For the rest of us, the extra salt provides no benefit at all.
  • Even if you exercise regularly, unless you are testing your body's physical limits for extended periods, water should be fine to quench your thirst.

2. Build up a habit

  • Put a big X on your calendar for six weeks from today.
  • Unlike our preference for sugar, which we're born with, salt is an acquired taste, learned from habit.
  • So it takes time to "unlearn" your preference – about six weeks, to be exact. Slowly reduce your intake of salt between now and then, focusing on food categories where the salt will be missed the least, such as cereals, breads and dessert items.
  • As long as you know you aren't going to stop wanting salty food overnight, you won't get discouraged.

3. Look out for non-salt sources of sodium

  • Here's what to beware of on food labels: sodium, Na, monosodium glutamate or MSG, sodium citrate, baking soda and baking powder.
  • They're all forms of – that's right, you guessed it – sodium.

4. Replace salt in the salt shaker with a salt-free mixture

  • This way you can still use the shaker, but eliminate the salt. Mix garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder and oregano together.
  • Grind the mix fine enough for it to come out of the shaker's holes, or buy a Parmesan cheese shaker from a kitchen-supply store.
  • Another tasty mixture is garlic, onion and chili powder, cumin, dried oregano and a touch of red pepper flakes.

5. Watch out for cereals

Much of the salt that we eat comes from cereal and cereal products (including bread). To reduce your intake:

  • If toast is for breakfast, choose breads with a small amount of sodium (check the nutritional facts label).
  • Pick breakfast cereals with no added salt, for example, oatmeal, Shredded Wheat, puffed-wheat cereals and granola with no added salt.

6. Use the calories-to-salt formula

  • To meet, or at least approximate, the recommended salt intake requires taking in no more milligrams of sodium than calories.
  • So if a food has fewer milligrams of sodium per serving than calories, you'll hit the target.
  • If it has more sodium than calories, you'll find it much harder to remain within recommended daily limits.

7. Make your own salt-free salad dressing

  • Mix 175 millilitres (3/4 cup) of olive oil, 75 millilitres (1/3 cup) of balsamic vinegar, one pinch of sugar and two crushed garlic cloves in a bowl.
  • Blend until emulsified.
  • This delicious dressing keeps in the refrigerator for a month. Just remove it an hour before serving so that it can liquefy.
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