The human body needs salt to survive. Sodium chloride is required in a nominal amount to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain a proper balance of water and minerals.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says it’s estimated people need 500 mg of sodium per day to perform these vital functions. Too often, however, people consume much more salt in their diets than is necessary, which can lead to a host of medical issues. The average person eats 3,400 mg of sodium daily, and that can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and even loss of calcium in bones.
Salt is already added to many prepared foods as a preservative and flavor enhancer, so it’s not necessary to add salt to these meals. However, when cooking from scratch at home and flavoring foods, it may be tempting to reach for the salt because of the way it can enhance flavor. Fortunately, there are many salt substitutes that can impart flavor without adversely affecting your overall health.
Potassium chloride Potassium chloride can provide a salty flavor without all of the sodium that is in regular table salt, which is sodium chloride. Potassium chloride typically is mixed with a ratio of sodium chloride in “light” or “low-sodium” salt options and salt substitute products. It can slash sodium by up to 50 percent in some instances, says Consumer Reports.
Acid Food scientist and blogger Nik Sharma says that people can cut down on salt in recipes if they increase the acid. This includes lemon juice or vinegar added at the end of the cooking process. It can replicate that bite that salt often provides.
Sea ingredients Kelp, alternative seaweeds or pureed anchovies can impart a salty flavor without the added sodium. While sea water creatures may taste salty, they do not transfer the same amount of sodium to the body as regular salt. These ingredients add the “umami” flavor profile, also known as the “fifth taste.”
Garlic Pungent and strong, this spice can boost flavor easily without increasing the need for sodium. Double the amount of garlic in recipes when cutting out salt.
Black pepper Similarly, Healthline suggests reaching for black pepper to spice up foods over salt. Black pepper is a good addition to savory dishes, and can help decrease inflammation in the body.
MSG Monosodium glutamate contains two-thirds less sodium than table salt, so adding a little can increase the flavor of foods, says Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of food and nutrition studies at George Mason University.
Nutritional yeast Nutritional yeast offers a nutty, salty, cheesy flavor, and is a popular choice among vegans who want to get a parmesan cheese taste without actually consuming dairy. The yeast adds flavor and is often fortified with B vitamins, making it a healthy addition to diets.
Ginger Ginger can be peppery and bold in dishes, and it works well in both sweet and savory foods.
Liquid aminos This is a liquid seasoning made by treating soybeans with an acidic solution to break them into amino acids, says Consumer Reports. It also can be made from fermenting coconut sap with water. The result is another umami flavoring. And though there is still sodium content, it is less than table salt.
Smoked paprika The smoky, spicy taste of this paprika may make it easy to skip the salt in some foods.
Salt is necessary in small amounts, but too often people consume it to excess. Small changes can help individuals reduce their sodium intake.