Ever reach for a soda to quench your thirst after eating a bag of chips ? I’m guilty too ! Double whammy of salt right there. It could be mild to moderate salt addiction. The five basic tastes recognized by human taste buds are sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty. Just as some people have a sweet tooth and some don’t, some people crave that salty taste more than others. Craving salt is just as bad as a sweet tooth, sometimes worse! But, just like you can curb your sweet tooth with healthy choices and alternatives you can kick that salt habit too with healthy natural alternatives that bring out the flavor in food.
Why Salt Is Addictive ?
Our bodies do need some sodium to maintain the right balance of fluids and contract, relax nerve muscles. We only need about 500 mg /day. When you eat more than that, your body chemistry is altered. Consuming salt triggers the release of dopamine , a neuro transmitter associated with the pleasure center of the brain making salty foods addictive. Eating salty foods makes you crave more and unfortunately it’s usually another salty food or drink like soda that the body reaches for.
Finding A Crave Cure !
The key is to wean yourself of it. When we stop using salt abruptly, there’s a dramatic difference in the taste of the food. For most people, taste is the most important reason why they eat something. If we were to lower sodium too abruptly, foods just wouldn’t taste good. So try using some healthy salt alternatives that add flavor and taste. Gradually build them into your diet. In time you may actually get to enjoy foods without much salt and just flavorful seasonings.
Hidden Salt In Food !
Forget the salt shaker, there’s natural sodium in food and added sodium in packaged foods. While there is not much you can do about natural salt in foods you can avoid the biggest culprits which are the processed and packaged foods. To read more about foods which have sodium in them and ways to shake the salt habit, read my post on” Tips To Reduce Sodium “.
Flavor Your Food With These Natural Salt Alternatives !
The easiest way I have been able to cut back on salt is by using these natural flavor enhancers extensively in my cooking. It works. I use salt free seasoning and these safe salt alternatives in most recipes that need salt and it actually improves the taste. My family hasn’t complained :)! Try them !
Vinegar and lemon juice : Have a magical ability to bring out the flavor of food. They also act as a preservative and can lengthen shelf life of foods similar to salt without the salty taste. Marinating meats in vinegar and lemon juice tenderizes it and adds so much flavor the need to add salt is reduced.
Spices : My favorite salt alternative. Cumin, turmeric, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon add a spicy kick to foods. Each spice imparts its unique touch to a dish and so much flavor, you can just skip the salt. I use spices in everything from soups to salads. Added bonus : they are chockfull of antioxidants and protective in nature.
Herbs : Another favorite salt alternative of mine. Herbs both dried and fresh can transform a dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Basil, cilantro, mint and parsley are just some of my favorite herbs that I like to use fresh. Dried herbs can be bottled with other seasoning to make a salt free seasoning which can be sprinkled over anything. They are a seriously yummy salt reducer.Salt Free Seasoning :I am a huge fan of salt free seasonings. I have several flavors of home-made and store-bought seasoning blends which I add-on everything from chips to meats. They enhance a dish and reduce the need for sodium so much I can’t do without them. You have to make my sodium free mango bean salsa to believe it !
Tomatoes: These function like lemon and vinegar and enhance the flavor of food. Fresh frozen or purred they make any dish magic. Just make sure you’re not using canned tomatoes or ketchup which had added sodium. Just use more of them. They are packed with lycopene and Vitamin C ! So good for you .Onion : Red, white yellow… they’re all bursting with flavor and add so much depth to any dish. Saute them in, add them raw or grill them and add to dishes. So much flavor, you can reduce the salt in the dish and not feel it.Garlic : Strong flavor which transfers on to any dish ! Anything that has a strong flavor can reduce the need for salt. Roast garlic for a unique flavor. Garlic has health properties as well. I add it to humus and don’t feel the need to add much sodium at all !
Ginger : Another favorite of mine. I add fresh ginger to sauces, smoothies, soups.. any dish I want to give that special kick to. Add dry ginger to your home-made salt free seasoning and to other dishes as well. another strong flavored spice which reduces the need for sodium.
Peppers :These add a tingly heat to any dish and transform the taste to spicy !!!! I love peppers and use them a lot. jalapeno, black pepper, capsicum, red chile, chilli powder … all of them distract the tongue and reduce the need for salt.Use as tolerated
Zest of Lemon and orange : There’s something quite powerful about lemon and orange zest. Adds a tangy taste that is quite unique. Just scrape a fresh lemon or orange to get lemon and orange zest and try it in your dishes. you may just forget to add salt and not miss it one bit !
Most of these natural flavor enhancers are in your pantry. Just use more of them and less of salt. Soon your taste buds will get re-programmed and you will not feel the need for too much salt. If you have any natural salt alternatives, please share. Would love to hear from you !