Salt. It's a cooking staple. A touch here and a sprinkle there can bring out the most incredible flavor nuances in any food. For me, nothing is better than a sprinkle of salt on a freshly picked garden tomato eaten right over the kitchen sink. Just delicious!
Salt is also an essential mineral for some of your body's key functions, functions that play an important role when you're pregnant or nursing. These functions include: controlling the flow of fluids in and out of each cell, regulating blood pressure, helping transmit nerve impulses and simulating the contraction and relaxation of muscles. While the recommended daily intake of salt for pregnant and nursing woman is higher than the average person (2,400 mg vs 1,500) we often have too much salt in our diet already.
If you tend to have salty cravings or eat foods that are high in sodium, there's no need to fret. Your taste buds are simple little guys that can easily be fooled if you know the right tricks.
In comparison to our nose, which can detect over 10,000 different smells, your taste buds can only distinguish between five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and unami (savory). Because your taste receptors for each of these flavors are so tightly packed together, playing up any one (or all) of the other flavors can help satisfy that "salty" craving.
Try Before Tasting
Next time you’re in the kitchen think lemon before salt. The tangy bite of lemon juice can give your food a refreshing zing. From steamed or roasted vegetables to pan seared chicken, a few squeezes can go a long way in boosting flavors.
No-salt blends: You can also try experimenting with no-salt spice blends. These mixes, which cover everything from lamb (cumin, cardamom, cayenne pepper, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, garlic) to chicken (thyme, rosemary, fennel, peppercorns) can easily turn your ordinary dinner into something extraordinary with little more than a dash of salt. These savory blends also have wonderful aromatics, and since your sense of smell plays such a large role in “flavor” they go a very long way in making your food and kitchen smell delicious!
Fresh Herbs: Don't forget fresh herbs. Freshly chopped herbs can add a depth of flavor to anything you prepare. Try adding freshly chopped basil and tarragon to a simple salad dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and cracked black pepper. Or toss some steamed carrots with fresh squeezed orange juice and dill.
Stock Options: If your time in the kitchen includes making stews, soups and sauces, be sure to purchase the low sodium stock options. Starting with a base that is low in sodium gives you the ability to control how much additional salt is needed. Maybe only a pinch is needed. Maybe more. You decide.
When Choosing Salt
When you do use salt, choose a course sea salt over a table salt. Sea salt is often less processed and can contain some of the trace minerals found naturally in salt that are good for you. Also, help manage your portion control by getting rid of your salt shaker for a small air tight jar that you can pinch from when you cook. Feeling the salt between your fingers can help you moderate your intake.
No one is saying cut out salt completely - your body needs it to survive after all - but making small changes can be extremely beneficial to the health of you and your family.