The 29th of August is More Herbs Less Salt Day.
It can be hard to eat less salt, as it’s snuck into so much of the food so conveniently presented to us as ready-made. Some people say that really the only way to reduce salt is by cooking your own food at home, as they don’t feel that restaurant cooks and food producers can be trusted to do it for you. In commercial food businesses, salt is often added as a cheap way to add taste, because using heathier, higher-quality flavouring ingredients like herbs could be more expensive.
Foods prepared commercially for us contain more sodium than potassium, even though nutritionally speaking, what we need is actually the other way round:
“Salt is an important additive in food. It acts as a stabiliser, a preservative and a binding agent. Salt makes food taste better and there are neurons in our brains that encourage salt consumption; this is why we crave salty food. The body regulates the balance of sodium and potassium (the two most common salts) in our body through two hormones: aldosterone and glucocorticoids. Sodium is removed from the body in the urine, but excess sodium forces the kidneys to retain water which can increase blood pressure. Potassium has the reverse effect and can relax blood vessels. Replacing sodium with potassium can reduce hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Our bodies require more potassium (RDI 4700 milligrams) than sodium (RDI 2300 milligrams) each day, but processed food will generally contain more sodium than potassium.” — Francis, Mathew, Exploring micronutrients: Minerals. In: Food Science and Nutrition: From the Farm to You. University of Leeds, online course. Step 2.7. Accessed July 2021 at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/food-science-and-nutrition/5/steps/915584
Wouldn’t it be great if food manufacturers, restaurants and take-out food places took notice of this day?
Making salt reductions in your food can be hard at first, and at first, might cost a little more than what you are used to spending on your food, until you figure out the lay of the land.
It can take a while to acclimatize your taste buds to less salt, as all our tastebuds have become used to an overdose of it.
“…Salt is largely an acquired taste and  data from their study suggests you can sensitize your pallet to lower levels of sodium over a four-week period. Once you are accustomed to lower sodium levels, you may find processed and packaged foods overly salty and it will be much easier to embrace healthy lifestyle choices that can help you beat the odds.” Johnson, Christina. Spice it Up to Reduce Sodium Intake. San Diego, California: UC San Diego Health. 2 November 2015. Accessed July 2021 at https://health.ucsd.edu/news/features/pages/2015-11-2-salt-and-spices.aspx
And, you may have to cook from scratch some things you used to buy ready-made, at least until you are able to find healthier, lower-salt sources.
But you’re worth it, and you’re health is worth it, so go ahead and spend the time, and effort.
As far as using herbs go, many will extol the flavour of fresh herbs, and rightly so.
But they aren’t always the right answer. Many people can’t grow them outside in the dead of winter when the snow is knee-high, and too many of us know the irritation of buying an expensive bunch of herbs for a recipe that calls for one tablespoon, only to throw the rest in the garbage a few weeks later, which makes no economic or environmental sense.
For many of us, in many occasions, dried herbs are a better solution. They can be just as effective in a recipe, and more practical in terms of having to hand when needed to provide flavour instead of oversalting.
And, for making seasoning mixes to replace salt, dried herbs are the only form of herb that will work.
Above all, remember, no nutritionists worth their salt are going to tell you to try to give up all salt entirely:
“The idea is not to give up salt completely. Salt is an essential nutrient, but the human physiological need is approximately 200 milligrams per day. A diet too low in sodium is  not recommended for the typical American because it would [also] likely be deficient in other essential nutrients.” Johnson, Christina. Spice it Up to Reduce Sodium Intake. San Diego, California: UC San Diego Health. 2 November 2015. Accessed July 2021 at https://health.ucsd.edu/news/features/pages/2015-11-2-salt-and-spices.aspx
A good strategy could be to reduce hidden salts in foods that you don’t even actually get to appreciate, and instead switch to small amounts of delicious, gourmet finishing salts at the table that you actually get to appreciate for their taste and texture.
Activities for today
- Replace your salt shaker with a salt pig and get pinches of salt by hand from it: you will find you use a lot less;
- switch from standard table salt to a crunchy gourmet salt, such as Maldon sea salt: you will find you use a lot less;
- buy tins of produce that say “no added salt”;
- start looking at sodium content on labels;
- look for no or low salt seasoning mix recipes, though granted, it can be hard to find commercial seasoning mixes that are low on salt because, again, salt is a cheap ingredient to bulk up those mixes. So, you may have to make your own!;
- try a salt sub such as Herbamare in your cooking and in your seasoning mixes;
- look for alternatives to heavily salted snacks;
- check the sodium levels on labels on bread, cheese, cold cuts, frozen pizza, soup.
Low / No Salt Seasoning Mixes
Salt-Free Spice Blends (Mississippi State University Extension)
And remember, you can make any seasoning mix low or no-sodium by replacing some or all of any salt the recipe calls for with a salt sub!
Lower sodium intake levels promise to be an important contributing factor in increasing our healthspans:
“Daily sodium intake of <1500 mg seems to be a key factor for achieving successful aging. Public health nutrition policies should enforce their actions on reducing sodium intake by people of all ages.” — Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Health Science and Education, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece. November 2020. Source: https://content.iospress.com/articles/nutrition-and-healthy-aging/nha190080
The earliest print mention that CooksInfo is aware of for “More Herbs Less Salt Day” occurred in 1992, in a Knight-Ridder News Service piece which was carried in several states on the same day.
“August… More Herbs Less Salt Day (Aug. 29).” — Knight-Ridder News Service. Foods take a holiday throughout the year. Burlington, North Carolina: Burlington Times News. 15 January 1992. Page C5, col 3.
Bengtson, Brandi. Herbs are the Spice of Life: More Herbs, Less Salt Day. Bellevue, Nebraska: Freeman/Lozier Library, Bellevue University. 19 August 2017. Accessed July 2021 at https://blogs.bellevue.edu/library/index.php/2017/08/herbs-are-the-spice-of-life-more-herbs-less-salt-day/
Bloem, Adéle. National More Herbs, Less Salt Day. Roodeport, South Africa: The Roodeport Record. 29 August 2017. Accessed July 2021 at https://roodepoortrecord.co.za/2017/08/29/national-more-herbs-less-salt-day-2/
Corso, Bob. More Herbs, Less Salt Day. Harrisonburg, VA: WHSV TV. 28 August 2020. Accessed July 2021 at https://www.whsv.com/2020/08/28/1on1-more-herbs-less-salt-day/
Rubin, Emily. National More Herbs, Less Salt Day. Thomas Jefferson University. 29 August 2018. Accessed July 2021 at https://blogs.jefferson.edu/atjeff/2018/08/29/national-more-herbs-less-salt-day/
Schoettler, Emily Ann. More Herbs, Less Salt! Penn State University Extension Services. 29 August 2016. Accessed July 2021 at https://sites.psu.edu/therhealdeal/2016/08/29/more-herbs-less-salt/
Skip salt, use these 5 herbs as healthier alternatives. New Delhi, India: Hindustan Times. 9 December 2018. Accessed July 2021 at https://www.hindustantimes.com/fitness/skip-salt-use-these-5-herbs-as-healthier-alternatives/story-hzDmEFPJztqLnx2RPTBozI.html
|↑1||Johnson, Christina. Spice it Up to Reduce Sodium Intake. San Diego, California: UC San Diego Health. 2 November 2015. Accessed July 2021 at https://health.ucsd.edu/news/features/pages/2015-11-2-salt-and-spices.aspx|
|↑2||Johnson, Christina. Spice it Up to Reduce Sodium Intake. San Diego, California: UC San Diego Health. 2 November 2015. Accessed July 2021 at https://health.ucsd.edu/news/features/pages/2015-11-2-salt-and-spices.aspx|