10 Simple Hacks to Lower Your Salt Intake: Current WHO guidelines recommend five grams of salt a day for adults, which is just under a teaspoon. However, most people exceed this recommended daily limit by leaps and bounds. If you’re used to the rich taste of Nigerian cuisine, then cutting back on salt could seem pretty daunting.
Try these simple hacks to lower your salt intake without skimping on flavour:
1. Cook Your Food Yourself
Most dietary salt comes from eating processed food, so cutting out fast food will get you more than halfway there. This means investing more time into preparing home-cooked meals so you can control how much salt you’re adding.
2. Use Fresh Ingredients
The other benefit of making your own food is that you can use the freshest ingredients possible, and we all know that freshness and flavour go hand in hand.
3. Amplify Flavours with Lemon Juice
Adding some lemon juice to your food will brighten it up and enhance the other flavours in the dish. This means less salt overall.
4. Explore the Great, Big World of Vinegar
Like lemon juice, vinegar adds acidity to a dish, and there are so many kinds to choose from. Add flavour and mild acidity to vegetable stir-fries with some rice wine vinegar and replace the store-bought dressing with apple cider vinegar and olive oil for your salads.
5. Add Shellfish
Crayfish is a familiar presence in traditional Nigerian cuisine where it adds sweetness and enriches recipes so that you need less salt. However, as the taste of crayfish can be a bit strong, be light-handed with it in continental dishes or add small pieces of shrimps, prawns, crab, or lobster instead. Whichever you choose, shellfish packs a punch even when used sparingly.
6. Upgrade your Dish with Garlic
Oh, the wonders that this ‘stinking rose’ will do to your food! Like shellfish, garlic adds a richness to food that means you can get away with less salt, and even dry, powdered garlic is not half bad either. Note that other alliums such as onions, shallots, and spring onions will also spice up your dish, but if you ask me, garlic is king. P.S. It’s also excellent in salad dressing!
7. Ditch the stock cubes
Most stock cubes contain lots of refined salt as well as other undesirables such as hydrogenated fat, sugar, and preservatives. Additionally, some of these products may contain Monosodium Glutamate or MSG, which is a rather controversial ingredient. Now I’m not saying you should never have Party Jollof made with stock cubes, but there’s a big difference between occasional and regular consumption.
8. Ditch the Refined Table Salt, Use Sea Salt Instead
Chuck the refined table salt in the same pile as the stock cubes, and opt for sea salt or rock salt instead. Quality really does matter when you’re trying to cut back on salt, and there are various sea salts or rock salts to choose from, which not only taste better than refined table salt but also contain trace minerals that may be beneficial for health. However, salt is still salt, so season away, but in moderation!
9. Don’t Forget Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices are a great way to add another flavour dimension and cut back on salt. Some herbs such as parsley lose the bulk of their flavour when dried and there’s something so special about adding a fresh sprig of rosemary to your cooking. However, feel free to experiment with both fresh and dried herbs and spices depending on what you’re trying to create in the kitchen. Herbes de Provence, Chinese Five Spice, curry, and jerk will upgrade your home-cooked meals but pay attention to the ingredients in pre-mixed seasonings as some of them are loaded with salt, sugar, and additives.
10. Get Acquainted with Toasted Sesame Oil
Popular in Asian cuisine, this gem of an ingredient is extremely versatile and will finish up almost any dish by adding a wonderfully delicious, nutty, and toasty burst of flavour that’s truly unique, whether it’s added to salad dressing or drizzled over steamed vegetables or roast chicken. Be sure to buy ‘toasted’ sesame oil as the untoasted kind wouldn’t take your palate places!