Your Guide to Seasonings Without Salt
So your doctor said it’s time to cut back on salt. You’re not the only one reaching for the salt shaker too often. In fact, 90% of Americans eat too much salt. The American Heart Association says recommends 2,300 mg of sodium a day (and 1,500 mg is even better) but on average Americans are getting more like 3,400 mg of sodium daily.
Why is this a problem? Overconsumption of salt can lead to high blood pressure and high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.
The good news? Making a lifestyle change -- like moving to a whole food plant-based diet and cooking with seasonings without salt -- can make a big difference in your blood pressure and your health. In fact, cutting back on salt has been shown to reduce blood pressure within weeks.
And while that’s great, the tough part isn’t understanding WHY too much salt isn’t ideal. The challenge is learning how to live salt free.
How to cut back on salt
Since 75% of our salt intake comes from packaged food and restaurant meals, one of the best ways to cut back on salt is to start cooking fresh meals at home and getting acquainted with all the fun spices and seasonings without salt likely already sitting in your pantry.
So does going on a low sodium diet mean you’re in from bland meal times the rest of your life? Hardly!
Cooking without salt actually opens up a whole new world of possibilities, introducing you to new seasonings and spices you may have overlooked for far too long. Seriously, there are so many delicious salt free ways to season your food, you’ll forget about the salt shaker in no time.
5 tips on how to season without salt
1. For low sodium meals, get familiar with dry herbs and spices, like:
- Earthy and sweet spices like cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. These can are great for roasted veggies, especially seasoning root vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, and potatoes.
- Want a smokey, woodsy flavor? Add in a dash of smoked paprika. It also gives dishes a nice sprinkling of color.
Hoping to give your dish a savory spin? Season with dried oregano, marjoram, coriander, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, cumin. Pro tips: Add a Bay Leaf to your next pot of beans to bring your rice and beans from boring to delicious.
- Add heat to any dish with spicy cayenne, red pepper flakes, chili powder, or dry mustard.
2. Experiment with fresh herbs:
3. Try all purpose seasoning and no salt seasoning blends like:
Mrs. Dash - when you’re first cooking without salt Mrs. Dash is a great way to find flavor without too much experimentation in the kitchen. The fine folks at Mrs. Dash have already done all the work, creating a variety of salt-free all purpose seasoning blends to make any dish -- from Mexican to Italian -- taste just right, without salt!
Lemon pepper - Up the roasted veggie ante with lemon pepper and you’ll get delicious vegetables with a slight kick. Zesty lemon pepper is also great on creamy vegan pasta dishes, like our dairy-free Mac Attack.
Salt Free Cajun Seasoning
Pumpkin Pie Spice
4. Explore ethnic cuisines.
Familiarizing yourself with international seasonings without salt will keep you from getting bored in your salt free kitchen!
Italian Food - if you don’t have Italian Seasoning on hand, make your own with a no salt seasoning blend of oregano, basil, marjoram, tarragon, and parsley. Fennel, artichokes, pine nuts, and olives will all give a dish an Italian-inspired flavor profile (though be careful on sodium content for olives and canned artichokes).
- Mediterranean Food - Add rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, red onions, and lemon to bring out flavors of the Mediterranean.
Mexican Food - You can really bring a Mexican dish to life by cooking with low sodium ingredients like bell peppers, cilantro, coriander seeds, cumin, garlic, lime, onions, oregano.
Indian Food - While Indian food may be your favorite takeout option, if you’re trying to limit salt intake, cooking it at home may be your best bet. Luckily, there is a whole delicious world of spices that make cooking Indian at food fun! Try cooking with aniseed, black pepper, cardamom, ciltrano, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, salt-free curry powder, garlic, mint, mustard seeds, nutmeg, red pepper, saffron, sesame seeds, and turmeric.
French Cuisine - Yes, french cuisine can be whole food plant-based and salt-free. Get familiar with bay leaves, black pepper, chervil, chives, fines herbs, garlic, green and pink peppercorns, marjoram, nutmeg, onions, parsley, rosemary, shallots, tarragon, and thyme.
5. You can look beyond spices to season your food!
- Use fresh garlic and onions over granulated versions to give a fresh taste to your meal.
- Add citrus fruits like lime and lemon to give your meal some zip. Works great on anything from soup to salad dressings to pasta.
Cook with celery! The truth is, your body does need some sodium; it is an electrolyte and helps regulate fluid balance and keeps us from becoming dehydrated. But this doesn’t mean you to need to pick up the salt shaker! You can get all the sodium you need from nutrient-dense whole plant-based foods. Celery and beets, for example, are delicious and versatile natural ways to get your sodium.
At first, salt free cooking may taste bland to you. But there’s good news: your taste buds actually adjust to salt-free cooking very quickly, within weeks. So cozy up to these spices and seasonings because soon enough, cooking without salt will become second nature to you.
By Ali Brown
Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.