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“Shake, shake, shake,” the saltshaker. This is a habit of most Americans. They do so without thinking; it is a lifelong habit. The containers for salt sit temptingly at each dining table. It is as normal and American as apple pie. It tastes good! Our taste preferences have developed over the years to regard food as tasteless without saltiness. We have lost the sense of how real foods taste; those delicate, subtle flavors that should cause us reason to contemplate and enjoy the distinction of each vegetable, meat, and fruit. Instead, all food is the same, and that is “briny.”

The average American is said to consume more than 2 1/4 teaspoons of salt per day, about 4500 or more milligrams. This is much more than is necessary. Although we need some sodium, our bodies conserve it and we could survive on about 400 mg per day. According to the American Heart Association, we should reduce our sodium intake to 2400 mg daily. Each teaspoon of salt contains 2000 mg of sodium.

I know it is not easy, however there is an extensive incidence of high blood pressure in our society. Much is due to increased sodium intake. Hypertension brings with it the possibility of stroke, and this we certainly want to avoid. Life has too much to offer to allow our lack of self- control to cause such a devastating thing to happen!

* Study the labels. Yes, it takes time at first, but soon you will know enough about each product to remember.
* Soy sauce, steak sauce, pickled foods, cheese luncheon meats, and quick snack foods like potato chips and crackers are loaded with sodium. Pick the products in low sodium versions.
* Cook without salt or with ½ strength salt. Start with simply using less salt and then move forward.

Degrees of Salt:
1. Unsalted, with no salt added. The normal amount of salt should still be listed, because food still contains naturally a certain amount of sodium.
2. Sodium free foods contain less than 5 mg of salt.
3. Very low sodium foods have no more than 35 mg.
4. Low sodium foods have less than 140 mg per portion.
5. Reduced sodium foods are reduced by at least 75% of normal amounts. Before and after content must be listed on label for comparative values.

What can I use to season my food?
* Black peppercorns can be used to flavor almost anything.
* White mustard seed, a “twang” to most dishes!
* White peppercorns have a very intense flavor, use mainly for cooking.
* Fennel seed: mild sweet licorice taste. This is very good for meats.
* Dried onion flakes, pungent flavor of onion.
* Celery seed has some resemblance to salt.
* Cumin seed, use sparingly a great flavor.
* You may purchase blended versions at your grocery store.

These are just a few; explore and develop your own combinations according to what you like in the seasoning of foods. Integrate your favorites in a sturdy pepper mill and add as if you were using salt while cooking. You may want to use only a little at first. You may increase the amounts used as you become accustomed to the different savor. If you have no time to cook, fresh fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and are great for a quick “no thought” snack

There is data that can be found on these subjects easily. We need to read and understand the possibilities and act upon the facts. The American Heart Association has many consumer publications containing valuable information. Their “Low Salt Cookbook” is a complete guide to reducing sodium intake.