Take it with a pinch of salt

by Khushboo on August 26, 2013

“I’m feeling SO bloated”

…I’m actually not right now  (thankfully) but I am pretty sure that’s a phrase we girls tend to utter at least once a month.  While menstrual cycles (Sorry boys 😉) do play a role, I find that eating high amounts of salt makes me retain water like crazy.  Chinese food, I’m talkin’ to you!  Aside from exercise & drinking plenty of water, doing the obvious works wonders for me: Cutting back on salt.

Before I continue, that’s not to say that I think salt is the devil.  As a mineral, sodium helps maintain the balance of bodily fluids in our body, as well as stimulate muscle contraction.  In terms of food, I definitely think it’s more than required in certain foods like oats, chocolate and eggs to bring out their best flavor…and caramel of course.

photo 3

However with its effects on various health conditions like hypertension & heart disease, I try to keep my intake at a minimum.  Between packaged foods like ketchup, peanut butter, bread & cheese which tend to contain hidden amounts of salt & the amounts used in restaurants, I rather control my intake when I can.  Although ‘salt’ & ‘flavor’: tend to be synonymous, focusing on other flavorful ingredients while cooking definitely prevents me from overdoing it with the salt shaker.  Some of my favorite ingredients to liven up and add depth to a dish include:

  • Onion, garlic, ginger, mushrooms & celery which naturally lend plenty aroma to a dish
Stir fry flavored with sesame oil

Shrimp stir fry flavored with spring onions & sesame oil

  • Flavored oils: Aside from olive & sesame oil, look out for infused oils liked truffle, chili & garlic, and sage.
  • Flavored vinegars (e.g. white wine, balsamic, raspberry red wine & rice vinegar) & lemon juice
  • Spices like cumin, curry powder, paprika, cinnamon, caraway, za’atar & mustard seeds
Seasoned with garam masala

Seasoned with garam masala

  • Fresh herbs including rosemary, mint, oregano, basil, oregano, bay leaf, curry leaves, parsley, thyme

Fortunately our taste buds are constantly changing and it is possible for our palates to adjust.  While food with less salt may taste bland initially, that soon changes into newfound appreciation for the various flavors & ingredients used beyond salt.

Other than salt, how do you season your food?

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com August 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I do use celery, carrots, onions, ginger and garlic as a base for just about every dish -love you stir fry-I love the celery-shrimp combo.
In addition to those I also use a lot of pepper, cumin, paprika, chili flakes, basil, and parsley – I do so love the taste of cumin and canned 100% pumpkin combined 🙂
Khushboo – you always highlight the BEST chocolate!

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Haha consider my chocolate “expertise” a result of years of tasting ;)!

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Lucie@FitSwissChick August 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Great suggestions!! I use a little sea salt here and there, but most of the time I try to add flavor with other options like lemon pepper, onion, garlic, parsley (I ALWAYS add parsley when I use garlic and onion, because it eliminates the ‘bad’ taste after :-)) but also organic mustard or I marinate the food in coconut milk or dip it in a spiced up low fat greek yogurt dip.

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

That’s a great tip about adding parsley to garlicky dishes! I usually limit my intake of the latter because of the horrid aftertaste so will have to give your tip a shot :)!

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Ameena August 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I am a huge salt-addict. Luckily I have low blood pressure so the doctor says I’m okay with continuing as a salt-aholic but these are good ideas to know! Especially like the mustard idea from the previous commenter!

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Mustard mixed with Greek yogurt is a fantastic dip for raw veggies!

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. August 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Herbs and spices are pretty much my go to when it comes to flavouring, but I actually suffer from pretty low blood pressure, so my doctor recommends that I eat a little more salt that the average person. I agree that we shouldn’t overdo it on the salt, but there are some instances where I see people cutting back on salt so severely that I get a little worried… Salt is still essential for our bodies, and can cause big problems if we flush ourselves out too much.

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I agree- some people take salt to either extreme. Avoiding it completely is as damaging as overdoing salt!

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Arman @ thebigmansworld August 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Mmm salt is so damn good! But like you, some things (oats, chocolate) I find I need to add just a dash of sea salt to, to amp up the flavour. In savoury dishes, I often mix it up with herbs, spices as usually the sauce or marinade will have a salty component! Something I am completely oblivious to is that baking soda/baking powder has alot of salt on it!

That shrimp looks sooo good! (and no salt needed ;))

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I didn’t realise about salt in baking powder/soda for a very long time…definitely a hidden source!

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 26, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I’m pretty sure most of my savoury dishes start with a base of onion and garlic – it adds so much flavour and makes my apartment smell amazing! I don’t worry a lot about salt right now because my blood pressure is on the low side, but it’s something that I may have to think about in the future because my dad suffers from hypertension (although he has been improving that with exercise and a better diet). My love of spicy foods means that I don’t have to worry about adding a ton of additional salt – chili powder and hot sauce seem to do the job pretty well!

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Your dad’s approach to improving his hypertension symptoms sounds very sensible- kudos to him 🙂

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Alex@Veggin' Out August 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I definitely try to season my meals with herbs first! In fact, I used to never add salt to anything, although now, I’m finding a little salt goes a long ways in bringing out flavor. And with my recent sweet+salty kick, I feel like I’ve gone from low end of the salt eating spectrum to the high end lol. I actually think I have a fairly low salt consumption still, but I’m not afraid of it anymore. Not exactly looking forward to those sodium rich cafeteria meals though… it’s hard because they have something like kale, but it’s doused heavily in salt so it’s like what’s better/ worse? Does the nutrition from the kale override all the salt? Why do you have to make my life so difficult, cafeteria?! 😉

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Ah the infamous cafeteria food! As much as I loved boarding school, that’s one aspect which I don’t miss..at all!!

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dixya| food, pleasure, and health August 26, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I love SALT however, I try to flavor thing with fresh herbs and spices and often ignore the sodium content on the soy sauce..light soy sauce does help cut down the sodium a little. I hear it takes about 20 some days for our taste buds to change and adjust to new flavors.

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Yup I’ve heard it takes 21 days for a new habit to stick!

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Lisa August 26, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I love that chocolate bar with sea salt. One of my favorites.
Having said that, I actually typically despise salt. Which is one of my problems with restaurants. Even if they salt things normally for people, I find them so overly salted. Ick.
I love using fresh or dried herbs to season instead of salt, for the obvious that I just don’t like it.

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Ah eating out must be a nightmare in some restaurants- have you found any to be accommodating with minimising their salt usage?

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Brittany August 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I don’t like using salt as a seasoning unless it’s on roasted veggies and even then I just use a pinch. I try to stay away from it in my foods too because I HATE bloating. I actually splurged the other day and ate a Field Roast sausage and was SO bloated all day yesterday in my entire body! It wasn’t worth it haha. So I chugged water and did Insanity last night like it was my job!

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Gah just the thought of “Insanity” scares me…how many days in are you?

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Alexis @ Hummusapien August 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I love flavored oils, especially toasted sesame oil! Eating out and binging on processed foods is definitely the culprit of the crazy salt consumption these days…and since I don’t indulge much in either of those, I think I’m doin’ okay 🙂 I always tell patients to read the food label, because lots of people don’t even know what a lot of salt looks like in numbers! Or that a mere 1/4 teaspoon has 500mg. But that dark chocolate with sea salt…I need!!

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Khushboo August 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Some foods are worth the extra sodium…Lindt is one of those foods 😉

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig August 27, 2013 at 12:56 am

I’ve been on salt overload the past few weeks, and I’m retaining water like crazy! I need to cut back on salt so that I can make weight for my competition! Can’t give up the sea salt choccie though 😉

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 8:48 am

Glad you have your priorities in check (i.e. in terms of chocolate 😉 )!

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Alex @ Kenzie Life August 27, 2013 at 2:53 am

I love vinegar on pretty much anything, especially mixed with dill. So good 🙂

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

Same here…especially balsamic!

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P August 27, 2013 at 4:43 am

I like using spices over salt when it comes to flavoring steamed veggies. Popcorn is another food that becomes more fun when flavored with unique seasonings rather than salt.

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

Definitely…have you ever tried cinnamon on popcorn? So yum!

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Miss Polkadot August 27, 2013 at 5:03 am

Guilty of being a salt fiend – that is, if I didn’t try to ban the word ‘guilt’ from my vocabulary in relation to food. It’s a seesaw for me using quite a bit of salt, then trying to reduce it and going back again.
Nevertheless I really enjoy flavouring my dishes with lots of fresh herbs and spices as well. Cumin is one that I found particularly great in adding lots of flavour and making salt less necessary. And funnily enough – getting random here – I hardly ever find the need to add salt when eating kabocha. I’m clearly obsessed ;).

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 8:53 am

Haha not random at all :)! I feel the same with sweet potatoes & butternut squash!

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Tessa @ Amazing Asset August 27, 2013 at 7:26 am

That particular bar of chocolate is one of my most FAVORITES. In fact I have about 1/2 a bar in my freezer as we speak… not sure if the remaining half is going to make it to tomorrow 😉
Although not the classiest (actually not at all) I enjoy ketchup on many different foods lol. For spices, basil, oregano, cumin, italian seasoning are among my top choices

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 9:04 am

Here’s hoping that leftover chocolate didn’t stand a chance last night…at all ;)!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table August 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

I did a whole posyt on this too. I’m amazed that people still think that salt is the only way to flavor food.

Here is my post with some ideas: http://www.sprint2thetable.com/2012/10/attack-of-the-killer-sodium/

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

Ohh thanks for sharing- I might have missed it!

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honeywhatscooking August 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

oh my, I’m feeling bloated, and it ain’t salt. Lol! I flavor my food with lots of garlic, ginger, green chilies, curry leaves when it comes to Indian food, otherwise sauces and garlic do the trick. And of course, avoiding processed foods helps. 🙂

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm

It’s crazy how much salt processed food racks in!

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Parita August 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

What are your thoughts on sea salt? Just curious!

And I like to use lots of spices when cooking – garlic, cumin, ginger, chili powder, etc. Experimening with different spice combos is so fun!

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Khushboo August 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm

It pairs great with chocolate ;)! On a more serious note, I think that although sea salt is natural (i.e. doesn’t undergo processing), it carries as much sodium as regular table salt and should also be used with equal precaution!

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Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness August 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm

girrrrl its like you read my mind sometimes. i am so sensitive to salt. im sensitive all the time but ESPECIALLY now aka while im pms’ing and i bloat like the blueberry girl in willy wonka. my salvation is spices. i love the flavored oils suggestion- im going to have to look into that!

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Khushboo August 28, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hahah at the Willy Wonka mention- best visual ever :)!

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Archana @ FeedingTheFoodie August 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

great reminder to limit salt- I have to work harder at it. I dont drink enough water, which makes the problem worse. I do add salt only at the end of cooking something – which helps limit the amount.

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Khushboo August 28, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Same here- I find that the salty flavor gets lost during the cooking process!

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Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets August 29, 2013 at 4:58 am

You are exactly right. I think when you cut back on salt, you actually start to taste the other flavors in the dish. I love using fresh herbs and flavored vinegars and oils when I cook, and garlic. I love anything with garlic.

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Khushboo August 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

I loove garlic…if only it didn’t come with the lingering aftertaste ;)!

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