Clipper Staff writer
I love salt. My heart, however, does not.
Though I’ve slowly but steadily been making a variety of healthy changes to my diet and exercise routines, there’s one great hurdle that still escapes me – table salt. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating too much salt means your kidneys can’t clean it all out, and the sodium starts to build up in your blood. That sodium attracts water, increasing your blood volume, and makes your heart have to work that much harder.
In addition, some studies have shown that sodium increases your body’s production of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body to store excess sugar as fat, which means the more insulin you have the more fat you have.
The problem is, it’s really hard to stop eating salt. Sodium is designed to make food more delicious, heightening the flavors already there and making the entire dish more enjoyable to eat. That’s why it’s in practically everything, from the tomato sauce you buy in the store to the hamburgers you get from fast-food places. It’s one of the main components in ramen noodles, which is a main culinary staple for both college students and financially-strapped entertainment journalists.
On top of that, salt is literally addictive. A variety of studies have shown that eating salt causes the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel pleasure. It’s exactly the same process that happens when you consume alcohol or nicotine, and that means salt can be just as hard a habit to break.
So I’ve resolved to cut back on the salt, and I’m going to use spices to help me do it. Though many spices include trace amounts of sodium, they’re proportionally far less than straight salt. More importantly, they still make food taste delicious, sometimes even more so than simple salt can manage.
Some spices are, surprisingly, even good for you. One tablespoon of garlic powder also gives you 3 percent of your daily potassium needs, 2 percent of your daily iron needs, and a surprising 10 percent of your daily vitamin B-6 needs. Though onion powder has fewer nutrition boosts, one tablespoon still offers 1 percent of your daily potassium needs, 2 percent of your daily calcium needs, 2 percent of your daily magnesium needs, and 4 percent of your daily dietary fiber needs.
Even here, though, you’ve got to watch out for the salt. A lot of commercially sold spice blends include a heaping helping of salt, since it punches up the flavor of all the other spices in the mix. Make sure you check the label before you buy your spices, and if you can’t find a mix that hasn’t been salt bombed then go ahead and make your own. Check the top three to five spices on the spice mix ingredients list – odds are, they’ll be somewhere else on the shelf.
And when you go for the garlic or onion, make sure you go for the powder version rather than the salt version. The average ratio of garlic salt is three parts salt to one part garlic, proportions that can sneak up on you when you’re using more than just a few shakes.