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How to avoid all the salt?

March 27, 2009 |  3:55 pm


Salt, salt, everywhere. I've been noticing, because I'm trying to cut down on it. One cup of chicken broth or soup can easily contain 1,000 milligrams. Canned vegetables are loaded with it. "Lower-sodium" soups? Hmmph, I guess everything is  relative.

I even found salt in the garam masala spice that I was shaking liberally onto a stir-fry the other night, all to add some extra zest without resorting to salt, which explains why I found myself saying, "Wow! This low-salt diet is a piece of cake! Don't even miss the stuff!"

Fully 69% of us should be limiting our sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the average amount people actually ingest is 3,436 milligrams a day.

The 1,500 limit is recommended for anyone middle-aged or older, all black people and anyone with hypertension.  Everyone else is advised to limit their sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day or less.

I'm a salt junkie. (Why eat mozzarella when there's Parmesan around? Bacon -- what's not to love?) I'm trying to limit it (and eat more fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy) as well as increase my potassium (think avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas), and exercise, to try to avoid hypertension. It's kind of a revelation when you start doing this. I was amazed when first I ate from a can of kidney beans that had no salt added (after I eventually found said can): This is what kidney beans taste like? I've been adding cayenne and turmeric and peppers and onions and garlic and cumin to almost everything I cook. Just a week later, I already noticed some adjustment in my taste buds. I added one part full-salt chicken broth to two parts low-salt while making a stew and the result just shrieked of salt.

I'm interested to hear from anyone who's done this: How quickly do palates adjust? And what are your best tricks for preparing low-salt stuff that still really tastes good? What are some of the best places in L.A. for low-salt things?

And how much, in your experience, has a low-salt diet helped with blood pressure? (This may be hard to say, of course, because most people -- like me -- adjust their diets in multiple ways.)

Meanwhile, here is a blog on low-salt eating that looks handy.

-- Rosie Mestel