Confession: I'm Addicted to Salt
I can pass on cookies and cakes, but leave a salt grinder around me and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
It’s common knowledge that sugar can be wildly addicting but let’s be honest, salt can, too! If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly trying to find ways at the dinner table to slyly add a sprinkle of sea salt to your meal before even tasting it. It is half habit and half….salt addiction! We crave that punch-in-the-mouth flavor that salt provides (or so we think). When looking for added flavor, it's easy to turn to salt. The great news is there are healthier ingredients to amp up the flavor in our foods.
First of all, let’s discuss why salt in excess can be harmful to our health. The underlying problem with excess salt in our diet is that water follows salt. Well, what on earth does that mean? It means that if we consume high quantities of salt, our body retains excess water. Before you go thinking bloating is the biggest problem here, think about the effects excess fluid retention has on your heart! When your body retains extra fluid, blood pressure increases; which can tax the heart, arteries, kidneys and brain! Over time, this could lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and dementia. If that wasn’t warning enough, salt also slows weight loss because it causes the body to retain water and renders it less efficient at the actual utilization of stored fat.
Now that we know why salt isn't the wisest ‘go-to,' let’s talk about some ingredients that pack that same salty flavor AND are good for our health!
Ahhhhhh….lemons! Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh lemon juice? Aside from their beautiful fragrance, lemons are very acidic. Acidity in food reads as salt on your palette. Therefore, adding acidity to a dish makes it taste saltier and more flavorful! Some great ways to incorporate lemon are to squeeze over grilled chicken or fish, dress a salad with lemon juice, or even drizzle onto other cooked vegetables. Lemon also works perfectly in marinades when paired with a fat (such as grapeseed oil). Don't believe me? Click the link to try it yourself with our fan-favorite Lemon Herb Chicken recipe!
Vinegar is very similar to lemon because of its acidic nature. In the same way that lemons add a salty undertone to a dish, vinegar also adds a pop of flavor that comes off as salt on the palette. Fantastic ways to work vinegar into a dish are to dress salads with it, use in marinades paired with a fat (such as olive oil), or make a sauce when cooking meats! For example, simply sear sirloin steak in a pan and deglaze with red wine vinegar for a quick and delicious sauce.
Tomatoes are SO misunderstood. Are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable? Are they salty? Are they sweet? Disagreements aside, tomatoes add a very salty and acidic flavor to dishes when cooked. They lend themselves well to chicken and white fish. Try roasting tomatoes and pairing them with grilled chicken for a very delicious Tuscan combination. Tomatoes work well as a simple sauce, too. Because they easily break down when cooked, roasted tomatoes can be pureed or mashed to make a delightful sauce for chicken.
Herbs make the cut too! Herbs are not salty at all, but they do pack a beautiful punch of flavor. Herbs are an easy, calorie-free way to add flavor to any dish. Pair fresh thyme, oregano or basil with the tomatoes and chicken described above. You'll be blown away! Pair fresh dill to fish with lemon juice, and you won’t know what hit you! Play around with herbs and try out unique combinations, they liven up any dish. You may be surprised to find they play well with fruit. Think, strawberry-basil ANYTHING. You can’t go wrong.
Now that you have the tools to add salty flavors to dishes without actually using salt, I know you will find it easy to forego the shaker or and use tasty, real ingredients with nutritional benefits. Salt, like anything, is fine in moderation. However, having these tricks up your sleeve will substantially reduce your need for the addicting additive. Bon appetite!
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