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Your Nutrition

Your Nutrition

Skip The Salt Shaker

Boost Flavor While Trimming Fat

When Food Doesn't Taste as Good As It Used To

Make Food Taste Good Again!

 

Skip The Salt Shaker

American adults generally consume much more salt than our bodies need. Why? It's simple: we like the taste of salt. In fact, sensory tests have shown that when the salt level in food is reduced, food acceptability also decreases. The mineral sodium is a major component of table salt. Therefore it's no surprise that consumers frequently shun reduced-sodium foods.

Nevertheless, some of us need to decrease our salt "habits" for health reasons. While the value of a lower-sodium diet in preventing or treating hypertension has been controversial, one recent large-scale, highly regarded study indicates that certain people get good results from limiting sodium. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)-Sodium study showed that those people with high (above 140/90) and high-normal (120/80-139/89) blood pressures were able to lower their pressures significantly on a diet containing 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. That's less than half of what the average American eats.

If your doctor has suggested you follow a reduced-sodium diet, you'll probably be referred to a registered dietitian, who will show you ways to decrease the sodium content of your diet. Some of these ideas may include:

  • Eating fewer processed foods, more fresh foods
  • Using more herbs and spices in cooking
  • Cooking with less salt, or no salt at all
  • Adding only a small amount at the table
  • Using reduced-sodium foods


Using MSG in a Reduced-Sodium Diet
If you're watching your sodium intake, you are probably an avid label-reader. You may have learned to avoid all ingredients that contain the word "sodium" in their names. Generally, this is a pretty good idea. However, some ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate, include the word "sodium," yet are not actually high in the mineral. In fact, if you're following a diet that's only moderately restricted in sodium, using MSG in cooking may be advantageous.


Why? Because MSG has less than 1/3 the sodium of table salt (700 mg per teaspoon), and also acts as a flavor enhancer. By using a little MSG and cutting down on salt (often by half), you can reduce the overall amount of salt in a dish without a flavor loss!

Here's an example:

Black Bean Soup*
Yield: 8 cups (8 servings)
Ingredients
1 pound dried black beans
2 quarts water
3 teaspoons salt (1 3/4 teaspoons salt)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
add 3/4 teaspoon monosodium glutamate
Revised to reduce sodium content!
Method
1.

Presoak beans in water overnight or use quick-cook method on package.

2. After soaking beans, add salt and bring to a boil; cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours.
3. Heat oil, add onions, and sauté about 5 minutes. Add green pepper and sauté until onions are tender.
4. Stir in remaining ingredients. (add MSG here). Add about 3/4 cup hot bean liquid, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
5. Add onion seasoning mixture to beans and continue to cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
6. Serve with rice, if desired.
* Modified from The American Diabetes Association and The American Dietetic Association Family Cookbook, Volume II, 1984.

Sodium Analysis
(Per 1-cup serving, without rice)

Original Recipe Sodium: 833 mg
Modified Recipe Using MSG Sodium: 548 mg
Sodium Savings: 285mg (34% reduction)


Granted, for people on strict sodium reduction diets, using MSG may not be an option. It's best to consult with your dietitian about whether this cooking technique is appropriate for your diet.

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