Reduce Your Salt Intake by Retraining Your Taste Buds - dummies

Reduce Your Salt Intake by Retraining Your Taste Buds

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

So why does it seem that salt makes some foods taste better? Salt can reduce the bitterness in vegetables and therefore make them more appealing to some people. There also seems to be a link between the increasing amounts of sodium in the food supply and people’s desire for salty foods. In other words, the more high sodium your intake, the more used to that salty flavor you get.

Human taste buds recognize several types of flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory). Some people are more naturally drawn to sweeter flavors, and others are drawn to saltier ones. Habit plays a role, no matter what the food preference may be.

If you’re accustomed to using a lot of salt, reducing your salt intake is a must if you have high blood pressure, but doing so often means training your taste buds to prefer less-salty foods. It’ll take some effort, but it’s doable. Your palate will adjust, although it may take a few months.

Stepping away from the salt shaker

While processed foods make up the majority of a high-sodium intake, not all the sodium in your diet is secretly tucked away in a loaf of bread or a can of tomato sauce. In fact, a lot of the salt that makes its way into your diet may be right out in the open — in the form of the salt shaker. Table salt itself adds a lot of sodium to the diet. Just one level teaspoon of salt provides 2,300 milligrams of sodium.

Here are some tips to help you start cutting back on how often you use the salt shaker:

  • Taste food before salting it. If you’re in the habit of shaking salt onto your burgers, fries, or other foods before you even taste them, try having a few bites first to make sure additional flavor is really necessary. If you need a little more kick, add some ground black pepper or a dash of red pepper flakes rather than salt.

  • Don’t shake salt inside the skillet or pan when cooking. Instead, use sodium-free spices and herbs, such as basil, curry, garlic, ginger, mint, oregano, pepper, paprika, rosemary, and thyme to keep food flavorful.

  • Instead of salting meats or vegetables when sautéing, add balsamic vinegar or wine to the pan.

  • Enjoying some high-fiber popcorn? Hold the shaker! Another way to use less is to load your pepper shaker with salt (it has fewer holes). Try shaking the salt into your hand first to see it; you’ll use less this way. You can also find salt-free seasoning powders to add zing to your corn.

  • When cooking eggs, add flavor with vegetables and other ingredients rather than pouring on the salt.

  • Going out for happy hour with friends? Skip the salted rim on that margarita!

If you’re a true-blue salt lover, don’t lose heart. When you’re on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, keep in mind that low-sodium doesn’t mean no-sodium. Although some recipes may be higher in sodium than others, they represent only one item or meal in your diet. You can balance out a saltier meal with less-salty meals the rest of the day.

Employing table salt substitutes

Sometimes physicians prescribe potassium chloride, a salt composed of potassium and chlorine, to treat low blood potassium levels. Potassium chloride is a salt, like sodium chloride. Although people often think of sodium chloride when they use the term salt, chemically there are many types of salts (another example is the calcium chloride used to salt roadways in the winter).

You can also find “light” salt mixtures or salt substitutes at the supermarket in the salt or spice section. These salt substitutes contain less sodium and often include potassium chloride. Potassium salts taste similar to sodium chloride, but they have a slightly bitter or metallic aftertaste on the tongue.

Some salt substitutes may contain potassium and lysine (an amino acid that has a salty taste). A “light” salt may be a mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride (thereby cutting the sodium by half).

Don’t use a salt substitute without first checking with your physician. Depending on your complete medical history (and especially if you have kidney disease), using a potassium chloride product may be harmful. For this reason, we encourage you to use natural alternatives, such as herbs and spices, rather than salt substitutes.