Most people get far more sodium than their daily-recommended intake and it can lead to serious health problems. While your body does require some sodium in order to maintain the balance of fluids and properly transmit nerve impulses and help your muscles function properly, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, or 1,500 mg per day if you’re over age 51, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, coming primarily from processed and prepared foods and adding salt to home cooked meals.
Consuming too much sodium can put you at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease, headaches and weight gain, with high blood pressure being the leading risk factor for death in women in the U.S.
There are many ways to cut back on your sodium, such as:
- Eating more fresh foods. Fresh fruits and veggies are naturally low in sodium and fresh meat contains much less sodium than its lunchmeat or processed meat counterpart.
- Look for low-sodium products. Many brands offer a low-sodium version of their product.
- Limit use of sodium-laden condiments. Soy sauce, salad dressing, dips, ketchup and mustard all contain sodium.
- Use herbs and spices in place of salt.
While it may be hard to avoid sodium in certain parts of your life, one area that is easy to control is your cooking and food preparation. There are many wonderful spices that you can use in place of salt that provide health benefits, help to control your sodium intake, and add new dimensions to your cooking that you may not have explored before.
Here are some of our favorites:
This Indian spice is often used in curry dishes has a ton of health benefits. Studies have found it to help prevent joint inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis as well as slow the growth of malignant cancer cells in certain cases. Turmeric is packed with antioxidants and is also thought to help suppress the growth of fat tissue.
Turmeric goes great in soups, curries, omelets and chicken recipes. It also makes a delicious, earthy tea. We love this recipe for Curried Tomato Soup for fall!
A great source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, basil is filled with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Try blending basil with olive oil and garlic for a dairy-free pesto or adding fresh basil to your pasta sauces and salad dressings to add flavor in place of salt. Savor the last of summer with basil in these yummy Caprese Salad variations!
The heat of a pepper comes from capsaicin, which holds anti-inflammatory properties and also helps boost your metabolism. Eating a spicy meal containing capsaicin is thought to temporarily increase your metabolism by up to eight percent.
Adding a bit of spice to any meal can help you forget about the salt you’re missing. We love adding cayenne pepper to cooked vegetables, pasta sauces, meat rubs and for something different, fruit salad!
Rosemary’s active ingredients are thought to help protect brain cells from aging and from damage caused by free radicals. Being high in antioxidants, rosemary is thought to help stop carcinogens from forming when meat is grilled or fried.
Rosemary works well as a rub on chicken or meat, in pastas or marinades, and added to ground meats. Incorporate this spice into your diet with these delicious rosemary recipes.
Cinnamon is perfect in fall recipes and helps to boost your metabolism, aids with digestion, and can help regulate blood sugar levels. Studies have found that ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help to lower bad cholesterol among other benefits.
Sage has been used as a seasoning since ancient Roman times. It is a good source of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, zinc, calcium and iron. Sage grows easily in most climates if you have room for an herb garden and is great with poultry, fish, vegetable dishes, beans and pork. Feeling creative? Check out this list of recipes that use fresh sage.
Ginger has long been known to soothe an upset stomach. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects. Gingerols and capsaicin, two compounds in ginger, are known to boost metabolic rates for short periods after consumption.
Parsley is a leafy green Mediterranean herb that is often used as a plate garnish. But parsley is so much more than a garnish. It is rich in vitamins that protect your immune system, bones and nervous system. Good for your blood pressure and kidney function, parsley can be made into a tea that aids in digestion and relaxes tight muscles. Parsley is also thought to lower your cancer risk and help with joint inflammation.
Enjoy parsley in this Parsley Mint Tabbouleh recipe.
Mint has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Consumption of mint is thought to help treat allergies, decongest during cold season, and help with indigestion, upset stomach and abdominal pain.
Check out these 10 tasty ways to incorporate fresh mint into your diet.
Paprika is a pepper seasoning, much milder than cayenne pepper. It has an assortment of benefits for your skin and hair along with a high content of vitamin B6, which provides energy. Paprika boasts anti-inflammatory properties, blood pressure benefits, antibacterial properties and contains vitamin A for eye health.
Paprika goes with just about any savory food. We love this simple and healthy recipe for Smoked Paprika Chicken.
Svelte loves fresh herbs and spices and there are so many great, healthy ways to incorporate them into your cooking. Whether looking for a new dinner recipe or satisfying your sweet tooth, look to herbs to add flavor and lighten your salt or sugar intake.
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What are your favorite herbs to cook with? Share with us below in the comments or on our Facebook page!