Americans far exceed the recommended intake of sodium each day. Salt substitutes are gaining popularity, but are they better for your health? Those who need to reduce sodium often have to restrict potassium, the ingredient in many substitutes as well. Get the facts and learn about natural salt substitutes.
Most Americans consume more salt than recommended. In fact, the average American consumes 3,400 mg of salt each day. While lowering sodium intake often focuses on the salt you add to food, the truth is that 75% of dietary sodium intake typically comes from processed foods.
Salt is necessary for many processes in the body. However, excessive salt intake is linked to heart disease and early death.
If you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart problems, or diabetes, your doctor will likely recommend a low sodium diet.
Researchers set the optimum daily intake of salt at 1,500-2,400 mg a day. The body needs less than 200 mg of sodium chloride to function, but it’s very difficult to get the recommended amounts of other nutrients without at least 1,500 mg of sodium. After 2,400 mg of salt, negative health effects begin to appear.
Types of Salt
You may have heard about different types of salt and health claims that some are better for you than others. There could be some truth to this.
Himalayan salt and sea salt are less processed than table salt, and contain more trace minerals. Kosher salt is free of iodine and anti-caking agents that are often in regular salt. However, they are all sodium chloride and will all raise your sodium levels.
The Problem With Salt Substitutes
Most salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Potassium is necessary for proper body function and helps lower blood pressure. It also tastes similar to salt. It may seem like the perfect salt substitute. However, most people on a low sodium diet also need to limit their potassium intake.
Potassium chloride is already used in many processed foods, including soups, snack bars, and meat. Using the salt substitute instead of table salt may increase potassium to unhealthy levels for some individuals.
Those at risk for this include those taking blood pressure medications or potassium sparing diuretics. Those with heart or kidney disease should also limit their potassium. Ironically, these are the same conditions that require limiting sodium intake.
Some salt substitutes don’t contain potassium chloride. Instead, they use a blend of herbs and spices to provide flavor. Mrs. Dash and Benson’s Tasty Table Salt Alternative are a few substitutes that anyone can enjoy.
In addition to purchasing a seasoning blend, you can create your own by using some of the herbs and spices suggested below.
The Best Salt Substitutes
The best salt substitutes can provide needed flavor to your dish along with health benefits. All without sacrificing satisfying taste.
The best salt substitutes include:
- Kelp Granules
- Lemon Juice and Citrus
- Herbs and Spices
Kelp granules may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about salt, but they should be. Kelp, commonly known as seaweed, contains 10% sodium. This, along with a concentration of minerals, gives it a salty flavor without a big increase in salt intake.
In addition to providing a salty flavor, kelp brings umami. This flavor can best be described as savory. it’s found in Worcester and soy sauce and is essentially the natural version of MSG.
The flavor of vinegar isn’t particularly similar to that of salt, so why does it make a good salt substitute? Vinegar tones down bitterness just as salt does. It also brings out the other flavors in a dish.
Less than 1/8th of a teaspoon of vinegar can decrease the amount of sodium that is needed for flavor. Balsamic vinegar is great on a salad, but it’s more than just a salad dressing. It’s also a great addition to Italian dishes. Apple cider vinegar is excellent for sweeter dishes, and white wine vinegar is an excellent all-purpose option.
Lemon Juice and Citrus
Lemon juice and lemon zest have an effect similar to vinegar. In fact, a taste study found that dishes with lemon juice or lemon zest and reduced salt were preferred over the full sodium version.
Researchers found that you could reduce sodium by 30-70% by adding lemon juice without losing the salt flavor in the dish. Consider it in dishes with vegetables, fish, or lean meats.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are an excellent salt substitute. They can bring more flavor to your dish, so you can use less salt. Replace your salt shaker with a homemade spice blend, or add fresh herbs to your cooking for a rich taste without the sodium.
The best herbs and spices to use as salt substitutes include:
- Black pepper
- Garlic and Onion
- Cayenne pepper
- Dill and Rosemary
- Nutritional yeast
Black pepper and salt are often placed sided by side on the table, but most people overlook the flavor pepper can add to your food.
It’s popular in soup, meat dishes, and eggs, but it can add spice to any savory dish.
Garlic and Onion
Garlic is a tasty addition to many dishes. It’s strong flavor makes fresh garlic or garlic powder ideal for pasta, soup, and sauces.
Onion or onion powder has a similar taste, but it offers a milder flavor and a touch of sweetness that can bring out the savory notes.
Cayenne pepper is a great way to add some spicy heat to your food. Use cayenne pepper flakes alone or as part of a spice blend. Hot sauce can also be used for a flavorful addition.
Dill and Rosemary
Dill can be used as a fresh herb to add bright citrusy notes to your cooking. It has a slightly tangy taste that will liven up your meal.
Rosemary can be used fresh or as a dried herb. It’s great on roasted vegetables, meat dishes, and breads.
Nutritional yeast is often used in potassium free seasoning blends. It has a cheesy flavor that makes it perfect for popcorn and pasta dishes. It may also lower your cholesterol levels.
Salt Substitute FAQs
How much salt should you have per day?
Between 1,500 mg and 2,400 mg is the recommended daily allowance of salt. Those on a low sodium diet should aim for 1,500 mg and not exceed 2,000 mg.
Where can you use salt substitutes?
Salt substitutes can be used similar to salt. During cooking, use herbs, spices, vinegar, or lemon juice to provide additional flavor. To season food after cooking, use a spice blend or a potassium salt substitute.
Is there a salt substitute that tastes like salt?
Salt substitutes that taste like salt generally contain potassium chloride. These include Morton’s Salt Substitute, Nu Salt, and MySalt.
Is there a salt substitute without potassium?
Yes, there are salt substitutes that do not contain potassium. The most well known is Mrs. Dash. Benson’s Tasty table salt alternative is also gaining popularity.
What salt has lowest sodium?
Celtic salt has the lowest sodium, followed by Himalayan salt.
Is garlic salt high in sodium?
Garlic salt contains less sodium than table salt. Regular salt has 575 mg of sodium per 1/4 teaspoon, while garlic salt has 320 mg.
Is celery salt better for you than regular salt?
Yes, celery salt is better for you than regular iodized salt for a few reasons. First, it contains celery seed. Celery has compounds that help lower blood pressure, which is often a concern with high sodium intake. Second, celery salt contains less sodium than table salt. Celery salt is 3 parts sodium to 2 parts celery seed, so it has nearly half the sodium of regular salt.