If your doctor has recommended that you follow a low-sodium diet, you might be trying figure out, “What can I use in place of salt?” While other types of seasonings and condiments might not taste exactly like real salt, there are a number of healthy salt substitute options that can help improve the taste of your meals, all while keeping your salt/sodium intake down.
Many people living in the U.S. and a number of other industrialized countries tend to consume lots of sodium and salt each day, which is found in especially high amounts in packaged, frozen, canned and restaurant-prepared foods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. It’s estimated that the average American adult consumes about nine to 10 grams of salt daily, which equates to about 3,500 to 4,000 milligrams per day — between two and three times the recommended amount.
As long as your diet includes mostly low-sodium foods, adding a bit of natural sea salt (such as real Himalayan sea salt) shouldn’t pose a risk for most people. In fact, everyone needs some salt/sodium in the diet, in combination with other minerals and electrolytes, to support normal cellular, muscular and nerve functions.
However, those who have health conditions such as kidney-related issues or high blood pressure may need to purposefully limit their sodium intake in order to prevent their symptoms from worsening.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is commonly associated with eating a poor diet that is high in salt. It increases the risk for health problems, including:
Health authorities including the CDC and American Heart Association recommend that most adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily (and ideally about 1,500 milligrams). This equates to about one teaspoon per day of added salt.
How can you get a salty taste without salt? Here are some of the best salt substitute options that can improve the taste of your meals:
Keep in mind that if you’re eating a meal that includes foods high in sodium, such as pickled vegetables like pickles or sauerkraut or natto, you likely won’t need to add any extra salt or salt substitutes. While fermented foods tend to be high in sodium since they are made with brine or sea salt, they also provide nutrients including probiotics, so they can make healthy additions to your diet as long as you can tolerate some salt.
In addition to using the salt substitutes above in place of regular table salt, you can help cut down your sodium intake considerably by eating less packaged, canned and frozen foods; fewer bottled condiments; less processed meats; and by cooking more fresh foods yourself at home.
Is Morton Salt Substitute bad for you? What about Mrs. Dash — is it a good salt substitute?
Makers of many bottled salt substitutes typically swap sodium chloride for potassium chloride.
According to the Pritikin Longevity Center’s website, “Most salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Brands include Morton Salt Substitute, Nu-Salt, and NoSalt. Potassium chloride tastes somewhat like sodium chloride (salt).”
Potassium is used in place of sodium in these products because it’s a mineral that normally helps lower blood pressure. However, when consumed in this form, potassium chloride can cause complications, including by increasing potassium levels in the body too much.
You’ll want to avoid consuming salt substitutes with potassium chloride on a regular basis if you have diminished kidney function, hypertension or if you take medications including ACE inhibitors and potassium-sparing diuretics. Generally speaking, do not use salt substitutes containing potassium chloride without speaking with your doctor if you have kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease or high blood pressure.
Here’s what you need to know about two popular salt alternatives:
You do not want to use both potassium chloride salt substitutes and MSG together, since this will contribute too much sodium and chloride to your diet, which is challenging for your body to handle. If you are going to consume MSG or alternatives with potassium chloride, choose one to have in small amounts but not both.
Another potential downside of using alternatives with potassium chloride is that some find them to taste bitter or metallic — plus they may potentially cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gas and stomach pains.
For the most part, you can use your favorite salt substitute just like you would use regular salt. This means using dried herbs and spices when cooking, and adding vinegars and fresh squeezed juices to recipes in whatever way suits your taste buds.
Here are some ways to use the salt substitute options mentioned above in recipe swaps:
Another thing to keep in mind is the positive effects that a high-potassium diet can have on blood pressure and other health markers if you’ve been told to follow a low-salt diet. Eating a diet that includes plenty of potassium-rich foods — such as bananas, avocado, potatoes, beans, yogurt, leafy greens, coffee, and many fruits and vegetables — can help lower blood pressure and reduce the need for hypertension medications.
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