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The Low Salt Manifesto


Mckenzie Ellis

It is time to end your love affair with sodium and change your life forever. There is a deafening silence in our food community that we cannot afford to continuously ignore. It’s time to have a real conversation, be honest and discuss the elephant in the room. This conversation isn’t about gluten, it’s not about sugar, it’s not the latest keto diet or vegan craze. It’s here to stay and has been around forever. It is time we had a discussion about the harmful effects of SODIUM.

Low Sodium AND delicious?
Sounds like an oxymoron, right? My husband and I have been living #TheUnsaltedLife for over 10 years now, out of necessity. For whatever reason, if you need to start cooking with less or no added salt, I have a few tips to help get you started. I call this “The Low Salt Manifesto” which is a modern approach to living a low-sodium lifestyle that will assist you in gaining skills and strategies to successfully improve your health through a low salt diet.    

Salt Fat Acid Heat – an outstanding read about Chef and food writer Samin Nosrat traveling the world to explore four basic keys to wonderful cooking. Salt Fat Acid Heat is broken into four elemental categories, each with the intention of teaching how these components work and how to harness them to make your food taste better. Nostrat says “Master these four elements, master the kitchen” – while I do agree with this proclamation my passion behind Low Salt Kitchen is to defy the necessity of salt. Sodium is essential to our bodies. Your body does need some sodium, to maintain the right balance of fluids, transmit nerve impulses, and contract and relax your muscles, but only about 500mg per day. When you eat far more than that, your brain chemistry is altered. You'd be amazed at the amount of salt most restaurants use without the food tasting too salty to most of the population. It's not only on competitive cooking shows that chefs use a lot of salt, but it's in nearly every restaurant kitchen.

Salt enhances flavor, yes true fact. But what other elements deepen flavor?

High-heat cooking techniques to create textures and chars. A skill to get your food crunchy on the outside, and tender on the inside.

Fat = flavor. In addition to being flavorful on it’s own, fat carries flavor. Many volatile flavor and aroma compounds are fat soluble – that’s why garlic and onions are sauteed in a bit of oil and turkey gets basted with unsalted butter.

Booze – No, not to get buzz while you are gearing up in the kitchen. By bringing both a bit of fat and a little booze to the party, we have the greatest chance of liberating the most flavor and aroma compounds in our food. Some ways to make your cooking 21 and over: add a shot of vodka to your tomato sauce, braise and deglaze with wine, add a bit of sherry or brandy to anything creamy (soups or pasta sauces), add a splash of booze to jams, sauces or marinades.

Acid – If your dish needs “a little something” that something is almost certainly a drop of lemon juice or vinegar. Acid brightens flavors and gives a lovely contrast to foods that might otherwise seem too heavy, rich or sweet.

Browned food = flavorful food. This isn’t just perception bias, it’s science. Two major reactions cause food to brown. These are called the Maillard reaction and caramelization. When food browns, amino acids and carbohydrates undergo a complex set of changes bringing out more flavor and aroma.

Fond – is the official term for the crusty weird looking brown stuff at the bottom of a skillet after you sear, sauté or roast your food. It has the same root as our word foundation which should tell you how critical this pan crustiness really is!

Cheese Rinds – Parmesan and other aged, hard cheeses often come with an inedible tough rind. This rind has a rich, nutty flavor that you can capture in long-simmered dishes. Just throw your parmesan rinds in the freezer until you need them. A bit of salt will escape from the rind into your dish, but it will be minimal.

Using these skills and elements to help deepen flavor, salt is no longer an essential flavor enhancer.

Salt does have a way of making your eyes glaze over, when hot buttery French fries arrive at your table with a side of extra salty sauce for dipping, the butterflies in your stomach start to flutter and you fall in love, but I assure you, the feelings aren't mutual.

We are a salt obsessed culture. The CDC claims, 90% of Americans eat too much salt. On average Americans eat more than 3,400mg of sodium a day. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300mg a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500mg per day for most adults, especially for those with high blood pressure. The sodium recommendation for children under 9 years old is 1,500mg-1,900mg. Research shows that consuming salt triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the brain's pleasure center, making salty foods as addictive as nicotine and alcohol. Therefore, as with any addiction, eating salty foods makes you crave more.

9 out of 10 Americans are consuming way too much sodium—and that excess can have a lasting impact on our health, including raising our risks for heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. About 75 million American adults (29%) have high blood pressure—that's 1 in every 3 adults. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing over 375,000 people a year. On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. It is clear, it is time to Break Up with Salt.

The early salt fixation starts when we are toddlers and unless altered in some way, continues to grow with us. The prevalence of hypertension among children reported by various studies ranges from 5.4% to 19.4%. According to the CDC, about 1 in 9 children have raised blood pressure. Start to live a low salt lifestyle and reap the benefits:

·       Lower your blood pressure
·       Lower your risk for heart disease
·       Lower your risk for stroke
·       Maintain and improve chronic kidney disease
·       Maintain and improve diabetes
·       Lower your risk of Osteoporosis
·       Lower your risk of Dementia
·       Lower your risk of stomach cancer
·       Weight loss
·       Reduce bloating
·       Transform your body inside and out

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