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How to avoid all the salt?

March 27, 2009 |  3:55 pm

Salt

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

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