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How a Salt Lover Discovered the Beauty of Lower-Sodium Eating

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How a Salt Lover Discovered the Beauty of Lower-Sodium Eating

Jane Maynard is joining the Sodium Blog as a Guest Curator this fall. Over the coming months Jane will share some of her favorite sources around the web to help inspire you to eat and live well -- and break up with salt!

I have a confession to make: I love salt. Love. I know that this is a funny way to kick off a blog post in support of the American Heart Association’s effort to help us break up with salt. On the other hand, I think it’s a perfect way to kick things off! If a salt lover like me can care about reducing sodium, then there is hope for all of us!

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Salt is essential to our health. It regulates our body’s fluid balance. The problem comes when we get too much of it, which, in our society, is all too easy to do. Excessive salt can raise blood pressure and high blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer.” Its symptoms are not always obvious and high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer worldwide.

So what’s a sodium-loving food writer like myself to do?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think about my family’s sodium intake at all until I met my friend Jessica Goldman Foung. Nothing was forcing me to care about sodium so it just wasn’t on my radar. Jess, on the other hand, had to give up sodium for health reasons. I love Jess dearly and was beyond excited when she published her first book Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook. I wholeheartedly agreed to celebrate the launch of her book on my own food blog. And then I remembered the simple fact that I love salt. Like for many cooks, salt is an essential tool in my kitchen. The idea of wading into the less- and no-sodium waters was downright scary!

AHA-Guest-Curator-JaneMaynard-photo2sized.jpgThen I tried my first no-sodium recipe, Roasted Garlic and Fingerling Potatoes. I wasn’t holding out high hopes because, really? Potatoes without salt? That can’t work! But I trusted my dear friend and gave it a try and…the potatoes were fabulous.

Suddenly my mind was opened to a new world, one where cooking is often more creative. Where spices and unique flavors have to step up and play a bigger role. Where salt goes from being a crutch to just one of many ingredients that help make food beautiful and delicious. Bottom line: a low- or no-sodium life didn’t have to be flat and flavorless but could most certainly be exciting and robust. Don’t get me wrong, I still love salt and I still use it, but I am more mindful and more selective, so the sodium we do enjoy can be done so with far less guilt or worry about the impact on our family’s health.

Here are the two key takeaways from my journey with sodium over the years:

  1. Home cooking allows our family to enjoy sodium in more delicious and healthier ways. Three quarters of the sodium in Americans’ diets comes from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods (source: AHA). Which means all the guilt I was feeling about using salt in my home cooking was pretty much useless. The sodium I should be most concerned about is what we get from processed and restaurant food. By planning meals at home more regularly and cooking from scratch I could have a much larger impact on our family’s sodium intake, and in the most delicious way! Plus I keep following Jess on Instagram to get inspired by her beautiful and scrumptious cooking, learning how to incorporate those techniques in my own kitchen.
     
  2. Education is key. The more I learn from Jess, the American Heart Association and others, the more aware and thoughtful I am about how I eat and feed my family. For example, I didn’t realize just how much sodium is hiding around every turn. The Salty 6 is a great example of how simple information can be truly transformative, even when looking at the food I cook at home. After all, knowing is half the battle!

In addition, all of this knowledge motivates me to demand more of our food supply and policymakers, to take action to thank those that are making efforts to improve food and demand better from those who still need to do more.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect and can still improve in cutting sodium. But I’ve gotten a good start and am much more thoughtful than I used to be. I still get in a rut of eating out too often when life gets busy, but the knowledge I have keeps the issue top of mind and motivates me to recommit on a regular basis. Before Jessica came into my life, I never thought about sodium. Now that I’ve felt her positive influence, I do think about the issue and take action. And I plan to continually work at it. Every milligram makes a difference!

What motivates you to break up with sodium? Has a health problem forced you to change? Has a friend had a good influence? Has positive change in your personal life inspired you to work to impact public policy, food companies and restaurants? Please share your sodium journey so we can inspire one another!

 Jane Maynard, of This Week for Dinner, is joining the Sodium Blog as a Guest Curator this fall. Over the coming months Jane will share some of her favorite sources around the web to help inspire you to eat and live well -- and break up with salt!

The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.