Nine out of 10 Americans need to lower their sodium intake, and many more want to eat less prepared foods, so it’s clear that eating healthy is a number-one priority for many people and is more important now than ever. Reducing sodium not only cuts some calories from your diet but helps lower your blood pressure, a leading cause of cardiovascular disease.
Thankfully, cutting sodium out of your diet is really not as challenging as you may think. Even better, there’s ways to create flavor-substitutes that will satiate even the zaniest salt-craver’s taste buds. Here we’ve gathered some of the biggest sodium culprits that you’d find on the grocery store shelves, and come up with creative substitutions to take their place.
Soy and teriyaki sauce
When a dish calls for soy, fish, oyster, or any other Asian-inspired sauce, look no further than your friend molasses. When combined with unseasoned rice-wine vinegar and other seasonings, the molasses mixture provides a satisfying replacement for marinades, mixes and even teriyaki sauce — keeping the dark look and fermented taste of the original while cutting down the sodium.
- Soy sauce: More than 1,000 milligrams sodium per tablespoon
- Teriyaki: 690 milligrams sodium per tablespoon
- Oyster sauce: 490 milligrams sodium per tablespoon
- Molasses: 10 milligrams sodium per tablespoon, depending on brand
Mayonnaise will contain more than 100 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, which means a hearty slather can quickly become a high-sodium spread. In its place, you have a few low-sodium options. The first is soy-based yogurt, which is both low in sodium and creamy enough for coleslaws, chicken salads, and sandwiches. Another one is sodium-free silken tofu, which when blended with salt-free garlic powder and other strong spices, makes an easy homemade option. And lastly, certain hemp seed oil-based mayonnaises have 5 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, and are starting to show up on grocery store shelves.
- Mayonnaise: 100 milligrams sodium per tablespoon
- Plain soy yogurt: 15 milligrams per 6-ounce container, depending on brand
- Silken tofu: 0 milligrams sodium, depending on brand
- Hemp seed oil mayonnaise: 5 milligrams per tablespoon, depending on brand
Canned broth and stock
When a recipe calls for this high-sodium ingredient, put down the can and whip up some quick mushroom broth. After only 30 minutes of boiling these fungi, dried or fresh, you’ll end up with an earthy broth that’s full of natural umami flavor (not salt) — which means a great low-sodium base for soups, stews, and stuffing.
- Canned chicken broth, ready to serve: 860 milligrams sodium per cup
- Mushroom broth: Practically sodium free (6 milligrams of sodium per cup cooked shiitake mushrooms)
When your next pasta, Greek salad or cheese plate calls for the tang of olives, look no further than baked grapes or pickled cherries to take their place. Sure, they’re not salty and they aren’t olives, but they’ll add a fun and unexpected twist to traditional olive-rich dishes.
- Olives: 420 milligrams per 10 olives (1,550 milligrams sodium per 3.5 ounces)
- Grapes: 0 milligrams sodium
- Cherries: 0 milligrams sodium
Take a page from vegan friends and get your hands on nutritional yeast, often sold in flake or powder form. Sprinkle it on popcorn, mix it into this year’s Thanksgiving mash or knead it right into homemade pizza dough for a familiar zesty kick.
- Parmesan: 380 milligrams sodium per ¼ cup, grated
- Nutritional yeast: 0 milligrams sodium
When you’re looking for a cheese sauce without all the butter, cream and sodium, try puréed cauliflower instead. It pairs well with macaroni, pizza and pasta.
- Prepared Alfredo sauce: 1,080 milligrams sodium ½ cup
- Pureed cauliflower: 16 milligrams sodium per ½ cup
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