How to take the bland out of a low-sodium diet – CNN
Without salt, we would be “adrift in a sea of blandness,” wrote Samin Nosrat in her seminal tome, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” noting that “salt has a greater impact on flavor than any other ingredient.”
Salt “coaxes out flavors in a pan and awakens the taste of just about anything it touches,” said Steven Satterfield, the James Beard award-winning chef of the farm-to-table restaurant Miller Union in Atlanta. Aside from amplifying the natural flavors of foods, he said, salt can suppress bitter compounds such as the spice from a raw radish and expose the vegetable’s hidden sweetness.
In recent weeks, the US Food and Drug Administration has reminded us of another truth about sodium, which many of us get from salt: The average American consumes way too much of it — about 3,400 milligrams a day. (For healthy adults, the recommended daily limit for sodium set by federal nutritional guidelines is 2,300 milligrams — the equivalent of about a teaspoon of table salt.) Excess has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and other chronic ailments, adding to the burden of US health costs.
Yet salt and sodium are not the same thing. The salt we consume, a crystal-like compound whose chemical name is sodium chloride, is a major source of sodium in our bodies, a mineral necessary for proper muscle and nerve function, hydration, regulating blood pressure and other biological processes. To put it another way, we need a certain amount of salt to survive. Determining how much is the tricky part.
For those at high risk of hypertension, the American Heart Association advised aiming for 1,500 milligrams.
The biggest culprit, though, isn’t the saltshaker. Around 70% of the sodium in Americans’ diets is hidden in commercially processed foods and restaurant meals, according to the FDA. To help people better manage their intake, the agency on October 13 called upon the food industry to voluntarily reduce the sodium in 163 categories of their products. The aim is to see a 12% sodium reduction in the overall population over the next two and a half years. That will still be above the 2,300-milligram target limit, but registered dietitians such as Carly Knowles recognize the wisdom behind that approach. “Most of my patients are busy professionals or parents of young children who either don’t have time to cook or don’t like to cook,” said Knowles, who is also a private chef, licensed doula and the author of “The Nutritionist’s Kitchen” cookbook. “Since most sodium comes from commercially prepared and highly processed foods like frozen pizza, canned soups, burgers, and flavored snacks, my biggest challenge is to help them find healthy alternatives that don’t require too much time to make and still taste good.”<…….