Today is national More Herbs less Salt day!  Salt: the key to a flavorful meal…right?  WRONG!   There is a plethora of spices, herbs and seasonings just waiting out there for you to discover them. Before I dive into salt substitutes, it might be a good idea to know exactly why it might be a good idea to leave the salt shaker in the cupboard.

Salt and the American Diet

Common salt is a mineral composed mainly of sodium chloride.  About 90% of Americans’ sodium intake comes from sodium chloride, or salt.  Most Americans consume around 3,400 mg of sodium daily — more than twice the 1,500 mg limit recommended by the American Heart Association and about 1 1/2 times the 2,300 mg limit recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.  But don’t think it is all coming from the salt shaker – in fact, roughly 75% of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and restaurant foods. Yikes!  While we can’t always control what goes into our food and meals purchased and prepared outside the home, we can definitely do something to control how much is added to the foods prepared in the home.

What’s Wrong with Too Much Salt?

I’m sure you have heard that salt (or sodium) can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension. The reason for this is because sodium holds excess fluid in the body, which increases the force of blood flow in your arteries and veins, thus raising blood pressure and causing the heart to work harder.  If this continues to happen day after day, the tissue that makes up the walls of arteries gets stretched beyond its healthy limit and becomes damaged – leading to problems such as blood vessel weakness and scarring, increased risk of plaque build up and blood clots, and tissue and organ damage from narrowed and blocked arteries.

Hypertension is sometimes called a silent disease because those who have high blood pressure often feel no symptoms – until the damage is done. This is why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.  Blood pressure generally rises as you age, so taking in less sodium now will help decrease the rate of age-related blood pressure increase and reduce your risk not only of developing hypertension, but also of other conditions linked to too much sodium, such as stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.

Salt Substitutes

Now that we know why many of us could stand to have less salt in our diets, I’m sharing with you what to use to flavor your foods instead of salt.   This way you can control how much salt goes into your food prepared at home.  I have rounded up a bunch of different seasonings you can use instead of salt, grouped by food type.  Most will add to the savoriness of the foods natural flavor, while others will lend a sweeter taste.  Mix and match to find out which combinations you like best.