Healthy Eating: Less Sodium Doesn’t Mean Less Flavor!

Posted By on November 15, 2022

Salt plays a huge role in health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, and according to the World Health Organization, salt intake on a worldwide level is about 9 to 12 grams – which is much higher than the recommended 5 grams a day.

Many people are told by either doctors or nutritionists (or, in some cases, decide for themselves when following healthy eating habits) to embark on a low sodium diet in order to regulate the harmful effects that sodium can have on our bodies.

When many of us hear “less sodium,” visions of bags containing flavorless potato chips that promise less salt pop into our heads. In truth, almost all unprocessed foods (like fruit, vegetables, grains, meats, and some dairy) are low in sodium; it’s processed food to watch out for. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that the

top sources of sodium come from foods like:

  • Pizza, sandwiches, breads, and rolls
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Savory snacks like popcorn, pretzels, and chips
  • Cheese

While cutting back on sodium might mean avoiding pizza and sub sandwiches for a while, it doesn’t mean sacrificing delicious flavors from your diet!

At HarborChase Senior Living, our luxury senior living communities boast exceptional dining experiences, where fresh ingredients and healthy choices are the secret to our indulgent, delicious meals. We want to share the importance of low sodium for older adults while keeping you informed on how you can take your diet to the next level of flavor.

So go ahead and put the low sodium potato chips and cans of soup back on the shelf, and learn more about how you can improve your sodium levels without sacrificing tastiness!

How Our Tastebuds Adapt to Low Salt Diets

Everybody is aware of four specific flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Umami is one of the core five tastes, and the word itself means “essence of deliciousness” in Japanese. While that definition alone might be enough to sell you on the benefits of umami, scientists have discovered that this unique flavor might be the key to lowering sodium levels in many diets around the world.

Salt, which is universally known for elevating flavors when added to foods, is high in sodium chloride, which is what boosts our risk for cardiovascular disease. In 1908, a Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda discovered that “glutamate,” an amino acid, was the element that gave a type of kelp called kombu its umami flavor.

Glutamate is also found in foods like cheese, tomatoes, and meat and induces a savory taste that identifies differently from the other four core flavors. Glutamate is also a building block of protein and peptides and aids in keeping our digestive system functioning when digesting protein (a major fuel source for the human body).

While MSG (monosodium glutamate) has often received a bad rap in terms of sodium quantities, it’s a major part of healthy eating. MSG is a safer alternative to regular table salt and is one of the most commonly used flavor enhancers in the food industry!

Whether it’s an intentional decision, umami is often added to recipes when it feels like a dish is missing something, as the flavor ties together any missing ends and seemingly rounds a dish together. This is also because umami is a more complex taste than the other core flavors; it lasts longer, spreads further across the tongue and tastebuds, and quite literally creates the mouthwatering sensation people associate with delicious foods.

Natural Salts vs. Table Salt

Salt comes from evaporated seawater and was the first seasoning ever used in human history, dating back to nearly 6500 BC. The ancient Romans valued salt so much that soldiers were actually given a special stipend to afford it, called a “salarium,” which is the origin of the word “salary!” Salt was also valued for its preservative properties, which aided in keeping certain foods fresh for longer periods of time.

Keeping this in mind, salt is at least 98% sodium chloride, which is what made it so valuable in the past; that high level of sodium is what drew moisture out of foods to preserve them. Many different types of salt play different roles in cooking, flavoring, and other situations, making it confusing when you’re perusing the grocery aisles. When you hit the seasoning section, you’re met with at least five different types of salts that all promise different things.

The bottom line here is that the slight differences in salt properties are of almost no significance when it comes to healthy eating habits: each contains a significant amount of sodium that can eventually become detrimental to your health if used excessively. Let’s quickly break down these levels based on the amount in a quarter teaspoon:

  • Table Salt – 590 mg
  • Kosher Salt – 480 mg
  • Sea Salt – 580 mg

Make Your Own Seasoning

Getting creative in the kitchen is an excellent way to prevent too much sodium from making its way into your diet! By combining different seasonings, you can elevate any meal or ingredient to its full potential. Here are some basics when it comes to specific foods and the seasonings that work best:

  • Beef: Bay leaf, cayenne, chili, curry, dill, ginger, mustard, paprika, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme.
  • Poultry: Allspice, anise, bay leaf, cayenne, curry, dill, ginger, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme.
  • Pork: Allspice, basil, cardamom, cloves, curry, ginger, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme.
  • Fish: Allspice, anise, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, tarragon, thyme.

As you can see, a lot of these seasonings repeat themselves depending on the type of food. Here’s an easy all-purpose seasoning to make yourself and keep in your pantry for your next meal:

  • 5 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2½ teaspoons paprika
  • 2½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1½ teaspoon crushed thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed

Experience a Taste of HarborChase

A luxury senior living experience shouldn’t include flavorless or bland foods, which is why our HarborChase Communities offer exceptional dining options. Our chefs are committed to providing unique dishes that contain tons of flavor; there’s never a shortage of “umami” when you dine with us! Healthy eating is at the forefront of what our dining experiences represent. We want residents and guests to discover unique flavors that enhance their lifestyles and health!

Discover luxury senior living and healthy lifestyle resources at HarborChase by visiting our website today.