It’s true what you’ve probably read—eating salty food is harmful for us. However, it goes deeper than that. Sodium and chloride, the two minerals that actually make up salt, can be beneficial to humans. They enhance nerve and muscle function, aid in digestion, and assist the body stay hydrated. However, consuming excessive amounts of sodium, as in ultra-processed meals, might be harmful to our health.
The official recommendation is for fewer than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day, but Americans consume more than 3,400 mg on average per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High salt intake raises the risk of heart disease and stroke, two of the top killers in the US, as well as blood pressure.
“This happens because sodium leads to fluid retention, increasing the volume of blood that the heart must pump around the body,” Stephanie Wells, MS, RD, ACSM-CPT, of Thyme to Go Vegan, told VegNews. “Consistently high blood pressure can place excessive stress on the heart over time. It can place you at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, especially if you are especially sensitive to salt.”
According to the CDC, the main sources of salt for the majority of adults are highly processed meals like pizza, pretzels, potato chips, and cold cuts of meat. If a vegan diet is high in entire, plant-based foods, it will have a significantly reduced salt content. But not every vegan dish is made equal. According to Wells, “vegan diets can be high in sodium depending on how often you eat out, what kinds of food you order, how much salty snacking you do at home, and how often you cook with salt.”
Fortunately, there are many of methods to prepare delectable vegan meals without using an excessive amount of sodium. Here are a few of Wells’ best advices.
A dietician offers five suggestions for cutting sodium while preparing delectable vegan meals.
Avoid the majority of highly processed choices
Not every highly processed product is harmful. Studies indicate that certain foods, like dried fruit, canned beans, and instant oatmeal, may be advantageous inclusions in a diet. Furthermore, Beyond Meat and other vegan meat substitutes are linked to improved heart health. According to a Stanford Medicine study published in October 2023, compared to diets including the same amount of animal meat, including an average of two servings of plant-based meat substitutes may lower some cardiovascular risk factors.
Wells cautions against becoming overly dependent on high-sodium vegan meat substitutes.“To lower your sodium intake, I recommend choosing low-sodium varieties as the default whenever possible,” she added. “You can always add a little more salt if your meal isn’t flavorful enough, but it’s much harder to remove sodium.” She also recommends opting for low-sodium versions of common plant-based ingredients, including canned beans, soy sauce, broth, and bouillon cubes.
Boost the acidity
The taste is the main factor in why people like salty cuisine. However, there are alternative ways to enhance flavor without adding excessive amounts of sodium to a meal. Wells suggests experimenting, say, with acidity. “Try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice or zest, vinegar, or tomatoes before adding more salt to a dish because acidity also boosts flavor,” she suggests. For example, you may find 11 simple and delicious dishes here, as well as further information about cooking with citrus.
Incorporate nutritious yeast
Adding nutritional yeast to food is a fantastic way to enhance its flavor. Deactivated yeast, flaky and powdery, adds a savory, nutty, umami flavor to food and is also a strong source of vitamin B12. Wells states, “Nutritional yeast adds a pleasantly ‘cheesy’ flavor to sauces, stews, and soups,” but she also adds that you can add some dried or fresh herbs for flavor and perfume.
Try consuming more fats that are healthful
Fat has a negative reputation, just like salt. However, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for our health even though saturated fat should be kept to a minimum. They actually reduce our chance of getting sick. Additionally, they frequently enhance the flavor of dishes. According to Wells, “healthy fats add flavor and a pleasant mouthfeel to lower-sodium foods.” “Salted roasted nuts or seeds, cashew cream, and avocados are all excellent choices for adding flavor without adding extra sodium.”
Center your diet on whole foods
One of the healthiest eating habits is a whole food, plant-based diet, according to research, and part of the rationale for this is that it’s inherently low in sodium. According to Wells, “a high-sodium diet may indicate that you aren’t getting enough whole fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, soy foods, nuts, and seeds because many highly processed, nutrient-poor foods are high in sodium.” “These foods should be the cornerstone of a healthy plant-based diet because they are high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and gut-friendly dietary fiber.”