Although salt is a common spice and most people like salted food, going overboard on salty foods can affect your taste buds and lead to several health complications. You, therefore, need to consider salt alternatives.
According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, over 90% of Americans consume more than the recommended 2,300 milligrams of salt a day. This is one of the reasons behind chronic health conditions like hypertension, metabolic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.
In this article, we are going to look at natural healthy salt alternatives that can help you cut back on your sodium intake.
But what are salts and their composition?
Salt is one of the oldest food seasonings and preservatives. It is a crystalline mineral composed of mostly sodium 40% and chloride 60% (NaCl).
So, where does salt come from?
Salt especially table salt comes from the mined mineral halite or rock salt. We also can get salt from evaporated seawater. This is referred to as sea salt. Sea salt is largely sodium chloride, with small amounts of magnesium, calcium chlorides, sulfates, algae, sediments, and bacteria.
Table salt is 97% to 99% sodium chloride. Other compounds may be present depending on the source or additives that manufacturers include during packaging. Pure sodium chloride is white in color but table salt may be white, faint purple, or blue from impurities. Sea salt on the other hand may be dull brown or grey.
The health benefits of salt to our diet
Salt has a big role it plays in the human body: via its role as an electrolyte, it helps nerves and muscles to function correctly, and it is one factor involved in the osmotic regulation of water content in body organs.
Enhances thyroid function
Salt contains the mineral iodine which helps the thyroid to work properly. Without iodine, the body cannot produce enough of the thyroid hormone and can have health issues including enlarged thyroid, constipation, difficulty thinking, fatigue, and sensitivity to cold.
Keeps the Body Hydrated
For your organs to function properly there must be electrolyte balance and healthy hydration levels. The salt helps the cells, muscles, and tissues to maintain the right amount of fluid. If the body is dehydrated, you will experience muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue.
Regulates blood pressure
Experts say that there is a direct correlation between salt and blood pressure. An inadequate amount of sodium can lower blood pressure and overconsumption can raise blood pressure. Low blood pressure leads to dizziness, nausea, fainting, and blurry vision.
Supports a healthy nervous system
The salt in the fluids of the nervous system enhances its function. Salt supports electric conduction which makes sending and receiving of nervous signals swift.
Balances electrolytes and prevents muscle cramping
Sea salt is a good source of electrolytes. It contains sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which are good for your health. Without adequate electrolytes, one experiences irregular heartbeat, fatigue, nausea, and even seizures.
How much salt should I take a day?
Health organizations recommend people take the optimal amount of salt. Consuming too much or too little will affect your health. Too much salt for example is associated with a greater risk of stroke, total cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium (a teaspoon of salt) a day for teens and adults and no more than 1,500 mg per day for groups at higher risk of heart disease.
Unfortunately, the U.S Food and Drug Administration shows that American residents consume, on average, about 3,400 milligrams of salt per day which is high and above the recommended 2,300 milligrams of salt a day. This explains the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
What are the best salt alternatives to lower sodium intake?
Now that we have seen that going overboard on salt affects our taste buds and can be a host of serious health issues like hypertension, metabolic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke, the best option is to go for salt alternatives
There are several natural salt alternatives like herbs, spices, and other ingredients that can add a salty flavor to your dish so that you can meet your dietary needs. These include;
Garlic tastes delicious in soups and stir-fries. It can boost the flavor of your dish without increasing the salt or sodium content. All you need to do is to cut back on the sodium content of the dish and double the amount of garlic in recipes like tomato sauces and marinades.
The vegetable has several health benefits including promoting brain health, helping blood pressure, busting immunity, and more. Learn more health benefits of garlic from our article “health benefits of garlic”
Drizzling lemon juice overcooked vegetables, salad dressings, meat, and fish brings out the flavor and makes an excellent alternative to salt since it is acidic.
Ground black pepper
Like salt, black pepper is almost in every kitchen. It is used as a spice because of its pungent aroma and flavor. It is a good alternative to salt and goes well with soups, roasts, portions of pasta, and other savory dishes. Black pepper helps with inflammation and other chronic diseases. find more in our article “health benefits of black pepper”
Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast sold as flakes and powder. It is a good source of B vitamins especially vitamin B12. It also contains fiber and protein which are good for weight loss.
Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, savory flavor and can work in place of salt. It goes well with popcorn, pasta, and grains
Paprika comes from dried peppers and is a very good salt alternative. Apart from the pretty sunset hue, it adds to dishes, it also adds a sweet, smoky flavor to recipes such as savory stews, chili, baked meats, fish, or poultry
Apple cider vinegar
This is sweet and tart, making a perfect salt replacement. You can use apple cider vinegar as a marinade for pork chops, mixed into salad dressings, and drizzled over vegetables.
Apple cider vinegar has several health benefits including lowering cholesterols and lowering the risk for heart disease.
It has a sweet and tart taste like that of apple cider vinegar. With balsamic vinegar, you can brighten the taste of your dish without adding on calories.
All you need is drizzling a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil onto meats, cooked vegetables, and grilled fruit.
Onion powder is intensely flavourful, making it a perfect salt alternative. You can easily add the flavor to your dish without having to peel. All you need is to chop and then sautée the onions
It goes well in soups, mashed potatoes, chicken or egg salads, and marinades.
Sage is an evergreen herb with woody stems, greyish leaves, and purplish flowers. It has a strong flavor which makes it a good salt substitute. Sage goes well in dishes, such as brown butter sauces, roasted squash, mashed sweet potatoes, and risotto. You can also consume sage in form of sage tea.
This comes from the seeds of the cilantro plant. Coriander has a bright, warm, and citrusy flavor which is a perfect salt alternative. With coriander, you can add depth and contrast to savory dishes while retaining integrity. You can add it ground or whole to salsas, soups, and curries.
The dangers of consuming too much salt
Salt is not bad because our bodies need it for several functions including fluid balance. The problem is going overboard on salty foods. There must be a balance of the minerals in the body.
When there is much salt in the body, excess fluid starts to build up in the bloodstream. If the kidneys can’t filter all the fluid out, the fluids stay in blood vessels and strain the walls. Over time, this blood pressure can lead to kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.
Also, According to a study published in 2014 in the journal Cancer Treatment and Research, a high-salt diet can increase the risk for stomach cancer.
Although we need salt seasoning in almost every dish, we must be careful not to go overboard. People with high blood pressure or other health conditions should cut back on salt intake by using salt alternatives.
There are several flavourful seasonings we have seen above that can be perfect salt replacements. These salt alternatives can reduce your salt intake without reducing the taste of your favorite meals and snacks.
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