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Kristen Pardue is a small town girl from southern Illinois who grew up in a farming community. She got her bachelors degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Mississippi. After graduation, she married a southern gentleman from Birmingham and moved to Nashville to continue her career as a dietitian.

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Hold the Salt
By Kristin Pardue, Dietetic Intern, Vanderbilt University

Have you heard the phrase, "hold the salt," but never really understood why salt is so bad for you? I wondered the same thing when I was growing up. My name is Kristen and I'm a twenty something health professional who is newly married and starting a career as a dietitian. Keeping my heart healthy means being physically active everyday and making smart food choices. I try to consume low sodium foods and cut the salt when preparing foods by adding more fresh herbs and spices.

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"You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease by being smart about salt."

A National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute study called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), found significant reductions in blood pressure when participants limited their sodium intake. The greatest decline in blood pressure happened in those consuming 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. It is important to know the label lingo when choosing foods lower in sodium. Check out these THREE label facts about sodium:

Sodium Free - a product that contains 5 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
Very Low Sodium-a product that contains 35 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
Low Sodium- a product that contains 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving

You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease by being smart about salt. So if you're thinking to yourself right now, "But I like salty tastes," it is actually possible to retrain your taste buds by gradually replacing salt with herbs and spices. This is great news because you are adding health benefits without reducing the taste and flavor of food!

If your food needs a flavor lift:

Pep it up with pepper. Chili peppers or hot pepper sauces come in different degrees of "hot."

Add a splash of vinegar. Herb, balsamic, wine, or rice vinegar give flavor to sauces, soups, and salads.

Shake on a salt-free herbal blend.

Garlic or garlic powder adds a great flavor to almost anything!

Try these FOUR recipes for flavorful herb and spice mixes:

Mixed herb blend (for salads, pasta salads, steamed vegetables, vegetable soup, or fish)

Blend cup of dried parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons of dried tarragon, and 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, dill weed, and celery flakes.

Italian blend (for tomato soups and pasta dishes, chicken, pizza, and herb bread)

Blend 2 tablespoons each of dried basil and dried marjoram; 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder and dried oregano; and 2 teaspoons each of thyme, crushed dried rosemary, and crushed red pepper.

Mexican chile blend (for chili, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, chicken, pork, and beef)

Blend cup of chili powder; 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and onion powder; 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, garlic powder, and ground red pepper; and teaspoon of cinnamon.

Greek blend (for seafood, poultry, and herb bread)

Blend 3 tablespoons each of garlic powder and dried lemon peel, 2 tablespoons of dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
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