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Reduce the Salt, Not the Flavor

In small amounts, salt, also known as sodium chloride, is essential for the body to function properly. It helps maintain fluid balance, send nerve impulses and influence the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

However, many people are getting far more salt than the American Heart Association’s recommended 1,500 milligrams per day. This excessive intake can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, which makes the heart work harder and can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. The American Heart Association suggests selecting and preparing foods with little or no salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So, how will you get by using less of this kitchen staple?

Jennifer Motl, Columbia St. Mary’s Women’s Heart Secrets Program clinical dietitian, has some great advice to reduce the salt, not the flavor in your diet: 

  • Squeeze a lemon or lime wedge over fish, seafood and all kinds of veggies to enhance their natural flavor.
  • Eat fresh foods. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium, and fresh meat is lower in sodium than processed meat such as lunchmeat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham.
  • Experiment with fresh or dried spices like pepper, garlic powder, basil, ground ginger, oregano leaves, paprika, rosemary, thyme and curry powder. They are tasty and high in antioxidants.
  • Try salt-free spice blends. For example, Mrs. Dash has 14 salt-free blends, from Caribbean Citrus to Southwestern Chipotle, and Penzey’s Spices, a local company, has dozens of subtler seasoning blends like its Sunny Paris seasoning.
  • Choose healthier dairy products like fat-free or reduced-fat milk, low-sodium, low-fat cheeses and low-fat yogurt.
  • Sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese. It has about 80 grams of sodium per tablespoon and a rich, savory flavor. Parmesan tastes delicious on steamed asparagus or zucchini, as well as on popcorn.

Instead of adding salt and butter to your popcorn, Jennifer recommends a healthier chili-lime version:

  1. Pop the corn on the stovetop in a little canola oil.
  2. While it’s still hot, sprinkle some chili powder, squeeze the juice of half a lime over it, and shake.
  3. Enjoy!

To learn more, attend Women & Heart Disease on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. at the Mequon-Thiensville Recreation Department. Presenter Dr. Patricia Dolhun, medical director of Columbia St. Mary's Women's Heart Secrets Program, will explain why it is critically important for women of all ages to pay attention to their heart health. The class is free and open to the public. Call (414) 963-WELL to register.


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