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More Whole Foods, Less Salt

We’ll say it upfront: This month’s recipe for Roasted Vegetables and Tofu with Savory Sauce has (potentially) a lot of salt. If you’re watching your salt intake, enjoy a light drizzle of sauce on your veggies by using a clean fork, rather than a spoon, to serve, so it’s easier to control the amount.

What’s so bad about extra salt? It’s a complex topic. First, “sodium” is the actual mineral present in food that affects our health. (It is frequently found as sodium chloride, so, while not exactly the same, the terms are often used interchangeably). Most of the sodium we consume is added during manufacturing of processed foods. Leading organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC maintain that limiting certain nutrients (like sodium) in our diets can help prevent diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease. You may have heard that too much sodium causes high blood pressure. Beyond that, high sodium may damage the heart, kidneys, skin, brain, and bones independent of blood pressure.

There has been some controversy regarding the optimal amount of salt in the diet, what is a realistic amount to recommend, and the associated health risks. Furthermore, there is the concept of salt-sensitivity: the degree to which salt in the diet affects blood pressure may not be the same for everyone.

The good news: there’s an easy way to avoid most added sodium without having to sweat the details. Eat mainly whole, unprocessed or lightly-processed foods—like the broccoli, sweet potatoes, and tofu in this month’s recipe. With this approach, you’ll eat less processed foods (e.g., cured meats, packaged white bread) that are not only high in sodium, but are linked to inflammation.

The ingredients in this sauce are so savory that a little goes a long way, and roasting the vegetables imparts a rich, caramelized flavor. You’ll have leftover sauce, so store the rest in the fridge and use it to spice up sautéed veggies or broiled fish later in the week.

Sources of sodium
The sodium in the savory sauce recipe comes from the tamari and fish sauce. Both of these contain salt as an ingredient; some brands may list it as “sea salt.” Sea salt is less processed, and may have very small amounts of minerals not present in table salt. Some people may prefer the taste. Table salt and sea salt have similar amounts of sodium, so it’s recommended to consume in moderation.