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Finding Flavor in a Low-Sodium Diet

September 03, 2021

If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney disease or certain other health conditions, your doctor may have recommended a low-sodium diet. Even if a low-salt diet hasn’t been prescribed, you may benefit from less sodium, as the American Heart Association reports that eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age and reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches.

several jars of spices, with a sample of each spice next to each jar

Often, people worry that less sodium will mean sacrificing flavor. But putting down the salt shaker – and avoiding eating too much fast food, restaurant food and processed food – doesn’t mean you need to live on a bland, tasteless diet.


Here are some suggestions for perking up a low-sodium diet plan:

1. Dress up your dishes with fruit, vinegar, oils and more: Cleveland Clinic offers some suggestions for salt-free or low-salt cooking, including:

  • Using fruit juices as marinades or in sauces or glazes
  • Glazing meats with jams, preserves, honey or maple syrup
  • Mixing brown sugar with savory spices as a dry rub for meat
  • Using vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, rice, wine, etc.) as a marinade or a drizzle on vegetables
  • Adding citrus juice and/or zest to marinades, rubs, pasta and rice dishes, or vegetables
  • If you like spicy food, adding cayenne, jalapenos or chipotle peppers to recipes
  • Mixing savory seasonings with yogurt to marinate meat
  • Drizzling sesame oil or herb-infused oils on meat, vegetables, pasta or bread 

2. Experiment with herbs and spices: The National Kidney Foundation offers specific suggestions for popular herbs and spices that might make it easier to create your next delicious recipe.

  • Allspice: Use with beef, fish, beets, cabbage, carrots, peas and fruit.
  • Basil: Use with beef, pork and most vegetables.
  • Bay leaf: Use with beef, pork and most vegetables.
  • Caraway:  Use with beef, pork, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage, beets, asparagus, and in dips and marinades.
  • Cardamom: Use with fruit and in baked goods.
  • Curry: Use with beef, chicken, pork, fish, green beans, carrots and in marinades.
  • Dill: Use with beef, chicken, green beans, cabbage, carrots, peas and in dips.
  • Ginger: Use with beef, chicken, pork, green beans, cauliflower and eggplant.
  • Marjoram: Use with beef, chicken, pork, green beans, cauliflower and eggplant.
  • Rosemary: Use with chicken, pork, cauliflower, peas and in marinades.
  • Thyme: Use with beef, chicken, pork, fish, green beans, beets and carrots.
  • Sage: Use with chicken, pork, eggplant and in dressing.
  • Tarragon: Use with fish, asparagus, beets, cabbage, cauliflower and in marinades. 

3. Make smart swaps and substitutions: There are some chef-recommended tips for boosting your food’s flavor without adding salt, as shared in this Reader’s Digest article. They include:

  • Use fresh tomatoes instead of canned. 
  • Swap unsalted butter for salted. 
  • Choose fresh turkey instead of deli turkey for sandwiches. 
  • Squeeze lemon or vinegar on fresh cucumbers instead of eating pickles from the jar.
  • Cook with wine and vinegar instead of soy sauce or barbecue sauce. 

Always consult your doctor when making changes to your diet. 

Learn about our low-sodium dining options at Embark.  

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