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August 22, 2016 / Nicole Villeneuve

Sodium Swaps: What to Avoid in Low Sodium Diet Recipes

Soft tacos with cabbage and mushroom saute

Sodium is found in nearly every food we consume. It’s naturally occurring in many plants and is added to nearly every packaged or processed food as a preservative or flavor enhancer.

The good: We need sodium to survive. It’s essential to the body’s functioning, regulating hydration and playing a role in things like muscle function and nerve conduction. It also helps boost flavor!

The bad: Too much sodium can lead to water retention, hypertension, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. To reduce your risk, it can be helpful to cut back on sodium consumption. But reducing sodium is about more than just avoiding the salt shaker: by focusing on whole plant foods and reducing consumption of processed or naturally high-sodium foods, we can move our bodies towards balance.

Here’s what to cut back on (and what to swap in instead) if you’re looking to consume less.

Looking to cut back on sodium in your diet? Get a FREE 10-day trial of PlateJoy's meal planning.

Cut back on: table salt

Eat instead: a variety of spices

Table salt is an obvious place to start when it comes to reducing sodium. Instead of grabbing the shaker, flavor meals – both during cooking and at the table – with spices like cayenne, paprika, cumin, garam masala or black pepper. Herbs like oregano and sage also blend beautifully into many meals, and produce-based flavors like garlic, onion powder and lemon can provide a nice hit of flavor without upping the sodium.

Cut back on: packaged broth

Eat instead: fresh veggies and alliums

Packaged broth, in liquid or cube form, can contain up to 24000mg of sodium per ½ cup. You can buy low-sodium broth, but preparing your own lets you completely control your sodium content. To make your own broth, simmer veggies like celery, green pepper, fennel, garlic and onion in a large pot with water for several hours. (You can use just the kitchen scraps to get the most out of your ingredients!) These can add a ton of flavor and, although they naturally contain sodium, they help to regulate electrolytes and stabilize blood pressure.

Cut back on: salty condiments

Eat instead: salsa, homemade condiments and apple cider vinegar

Condiments like soy sauce, hot sauce and salad dressings are some of the worst offenders for excess sodium. Swap these out for citrus juices (lemon is a great option), plain yellow mustard or no-salt-added Dijon, salsa and apple cider vinegar. Mix and match to make your own dressings, or seek out lower-sodium versions of tamari and miso.

Cut back on: brined cheeses

Eat instead: lower-sodium varieties

Sorry to break this news: halloumi, blue cheese and feta contain more salt than seawater. Highly processed cheeses, like string cheese, also contain more salt than is “necessary”. In their stead, opt for lower-sodium blends like Emmental, cream cheese, cottage cheese and mozzarella. Swiss and ricotta also tend to be lower in sodium due to the way they’re made: just check labels before buying.

Cut back on: cold cuts

Eat instead: roasted sandwich meats or veggie options

On average, one slice of lunchmeat contains about 362mg of sodium. The Recommended Daily Allowance is 1500mg, so that 3-slices-of-meat sandwich will pretty much be all you’re allotted for the day. Instead of ham, prosciutto or salami, consider roasting and slicing your own turkey or chicken in advance, or even grilling up some avocado. Tuna salad (made from low-sodium canned tuna or from mashed chickpeas) can also be a hearty option for sandwiches and will be less likely to max out your sodium intake.

Looking to cut back on sodium in your diet? Get a FREE 10-day trial of PlateJoy's meal planning.

Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve is a certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. A graduate of Yale University, she previously worked in book publishing, with a focus on cookbooks and health, and ran the food blog Paper and Salt. Her writing has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Daily Beast. Nicole lives in San Francisco and loves cooking, reading, exploring new restaurants, and running by the ocean. You can (very occasionally) find her on Twitter.

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