Tips to Live By

PODCAST: How to Make a Heart Healthy Diet Taste Better

April 2, 2024

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE: Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Amazon Music

If the phrase "heart-healthy diet" makes you think of poached chicken and steamed vegetables without salt or seasoning, you're not alone. But eating to improve heart health — whether to control blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels or slow coronary artery disease — doesn't mean signing up for a lifetime of bland food. In this episode, we explore the different ingredients, simple swaps and best cooking methods to help achieve our health goals without sacrificing one of life's great pleasures — enjoying delicious food.

Expert: Amanda Beaver, Registered Dietitian

Interviewer: Kim Rivera Huston-Weber

Notable topics covered:

  • Do you need to fear sugar in a heart-healthy diet?
  • The salt shaker isn't your enemy — discover the true culprit for excess sodium intake
  • Tips & tricks to shopping for (and cooking with) ingredients from the grocery store's middle aisles
  • Sea salt, iodized, Kosher, Himalayan pink: Is one better than the other?
  • Why you should revisit (or bulk up) your spice drawer or cabinet
  • Can acid make smaller amounts of salt go farther in dishes?
  • MSG, the controversial ingredient that can add savoriness with two-thirds less sodium
  • Healthier choices when shopping for cooking oil
  • Why not all fats are bad — and the swaps that can help improve our heart health
  • Is there a healthier option to white table sugar?
  • Why your mindset should be "what can I add" rather than "what I should take away"
  • Why cooking method matters and why we should use our oven or air fryer more

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Episode Transcript

ZACH MOORE: Welcome to On Health with Houston Methodist. I’m Zach Moore. I’m a photographer and editor here, and I’m also a long-time podcaster.

KIM RIVERA HUSTON-WEBER: I’m Kim Rivera Huston-Weber. I’m a copywriter here at Houston Methodist.

ZACH: And Kim, do you like to cook?

KIM: Yes. I love to cook and bake. I think preparing food is definitely one of life’s pleasures.

ZACH: Okay, cooking and baking, what is the difference?

KIM: Usually, at least for me, I think of cooking as savory. So, making lunch, dinner…

ZACH: Mhm.

KIM: Breakfast.

ZACH: ‘Cause you don’t cook a cake, you bake a cake.

KIM: Yeah, you bake a cake.

ZACH: But you bake cookies…

KIM: You bake cookies…

ZACH: But you don’t cook bakies though, so what’s that about? Think about it.

KIM: It is very much like a riddle. Yeah, you can bake a chicken, and yeah the way you say it definitely sounds like a riddle.

ZACH: Yeah, I’m not Mr. Kitchen, but if I were more Mr. Kitchen, which is I don’t know if that’s even -- People know what I mean when I say that. But the part that we’re talking about today is getting a heart healthy diet and, you know, being a little more kitchen savvy might serve you well, right?

KIM: Yeah. The reason I wanted to do this episode is because I do really enjoy cooking food, but I wanted to be more mindful of my personal sodium intake and just making my overall diet healthier. And, you know, I think when people are facing some kind of diagnosis, they might feel like they’re just never going to be able to eat the foods that they love again, and that doesn’t have to be the case.

ZACH: Yeah. When you are making stuff yourself, one of the most dangerous lines in any recipe “Salt to taste,” right? ‘Cause I’ll be like, “Okay, sure. This is gonna taste great after I’m done salting it.” And, you know, not necessarily a pinch of salt, they’re all very vague terms, right? And we’re gonna talk about a lot of how salt affects your heart health.

KIM: Yes, definitely. And really how -- Our expert goes a lot into what sodium does for your diet and some of the healthier swaps that we can make to make our food taste as good as it can possibly taste.

ZACH: Yeah, because I think we start some of these habits when we’re younger, right? We’re sitting there with our parents, we’re eating popcorn. Like, oh -- Salt, salt, salt or you maybe go to a restaurant and there’s chips, salt, salt, salt. And it just becomes this, “Oh, well I must put salt on this stuff.” And then it, kind of, informs your tastebuds moving forward and you acclimate to that and then it’s all about reacclimation and that sort of thing. So, you know, the message we’re just gonna try to get across today is hey, just be mindful of not just salt, but other, you know, ingredients you’re putting on your food. So, who did we talk to today, Kim?

KIM: Yes, we talked to Amanda Beaver, she’s a registered dietitian here at Houston Methodist.

ZACH: Great. Amanda has been on the podcast a couple times before now and looking forward to sitting down and talking to her again. Let’s get into it.

[ Sound effect signaling start of interview]

KIM: I, kind of, wanna start with a little bit of an unorthodox question. Would you consider yourself a foodie?

AMANDA BEAVER: Yes. So, I love cooking and have tons, and tons, and tons of cookbooks at home, and I’ve always loved things like food science on how to make our food taste as good as we can make it. But as you know, I’m also a dietitian, so I love it when food is nutritious for us as well.

KIM: The reason I ask is I absolutely love cooking and baking, but I feel that there can be a disconnect for some people between eating for nourishment and eating for enjoyment, when that doesn’t have to be the case. In my experience, I’ve seen friends and family face certain diagnoses and then they feel like they can’t eat certain favorite foods or cultural foods because there’s too much sugar or salt, too much this or that. And then they feel like they’re just facing this lifetime of, like, terribly bland food. So, today I’d love to frame the conversation with a focus on how we can embrace abundance when preparing a heart healthy diet to nourish us but also taste great.

AMANDA: Absolutely. And I think the first thing people think of when they feel like they have to go on a heart healthy diet is that they’re gonna be eating steamed vegetables, chicken breast, and brown rice. And that’s absolutely not the case. So, I really want this conversation for everybody to go home feeling like they can still eat some really delicious food and make it really tasty while still being heart healthy.

KIM: Excellent. So, let’s, kind of, start with what the problem might actually be. So, salt, fat, acid, heat, these are really considered the four components of, you know, delicious food, but two of those, salt and fat might pose some problems for our health. So, how much fat and salt are Americans consuming?

AMANDA: When it comes to salt, this is where most Americans are getting into a little bit of trouble on this one. So, the recommendation for Americans is to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Most Americans are around 3,400 milligrams of sodium. So, we’re definitely pretty far over it. So, there is some room for improvement, but the great news is that reducing our sodium intake at all will improve our blood pressure. So, any reduction in sodium intake can lead to improvements. So, it doesn’t mean that you have to go from 100 to 0 basically. And then when it comes to fat, this is one where there’s been a lot of changes in the guidelines over the years, which has been really confusing for Americans. So, at first we were told fat is bad. You should not eat fat, you should eat a low-fat diet. As we’ve, kind of, done more research over the years, we’ve learned that not all fats are bad and interestingly enough, we’ve seen that some of the healthiest diets in the world, some of the diets that are recommended for people who have heart health issues, like the Mediterranean diet for example, have pretty high amounts of fat. Like, 35-40% fat. The key there is that most of it comes from unsaturated fat sources, so olive oil and nuts. So, it’s not the amount of fat that we’re eating that’s the problem, it’s the type of fat that we really need to, kinda, focus a little bit more on.

KIM: Now, that makes a lot of sense. And so, something else. I would also consider myself to be a dessert person, and so sugar is another component of flavor, even though it’s not in the big four. So, is sugar a problem for our heart healthy diets?

AMANDA: Yeah. So, first off, I love dessert as well. But when it comes to sugar and when it comes to sweets, a lot of us don’t really think about sugar when it comes to our heart health. But interestingly enough, it actually can play a pretty big role in our heart health, and what we found is things like sugars, sweets, refined carbohydrates can increase our LDL cholesterol, and we do have guidelines from some of our major health organizations to try to limit our added sugar intake. So, really the recommendation is to take a look at the added sugar that’s in the foods that we’re eating. So, if you’re able to take a look at a food label right now, you’ll see “Total Sugars” and “Added Sugars.” Added sugars are the ones that are added during food processing. Things like white sugar, corn syrup, things like that. And these are the ones that tend to be more detrimental to our health. We also see total sugars on there. That includes the natural sugar that’s naturally occurring to the food plus the added sugars. So, that’s why I tell people to, kinda, just, maybe, skip over that one a little bit and look at the added sugar because we know that the sugar that comes from things like fruit isn’t something that we really need to worry about because fruits also have antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and when we look at big studies, people who eat fruit, even people with diabetes who eat fruit tend to have better managed diabetes. All this is to say is that if we love to bake and we love to eat sweet things, one thing we might be able to get away with, depending on the recipe, is reducing the sugar in the recipe a little bit. So, for example, my mom and I love making muffins and the recipe that we love to make has half a cup of sugar in it, and we’ve, kinda, found over the years that doing a third of a cup doesn’t really change the taste of it too much. And another thing too, using fruits and things in what we’re cooking can sweeten them naturally while also providing things like fiber, and vitamins, and minerals, and things like that. So, I’m talking like using banana as a sweetener, dates, and also things like apple sauce. So, these can all be added to things that we bake to add some natural sweetness, but also add beneficial things like fiber and vitamins.

KIM: Yeah, that’s awesome. And so, when we’re getting started with -- ‘cause we want -- With the conversation, we wanna, kinda, talk about abundance and the things that you can eat, can enjoy. But it is, kind of, important to know what those big offenders are in terms of sodium, saturated fats, and even sugar. So, when we’re trying to be mindful, what should we be on the lookout for?

AMANDA: Absolutely. So, I think the first thing that people really think of is the salt shaker. Right? But interestingly enough, what we found is that 70% of the salt that Americans are eating actually comes from restaurant foods, prepared foods, and packaged foods. So, the food that we cook at home tends to not be the issue, which is, I think, really great for those of us who like to cook, or those of us who are wanting to get more into it. And really it’s these foods that we wanna try to be a little bit more careful of. So one easy thing that we can do it just try to say, “Okay, maybe I’m going out to eat five times in a week, can I go to four, and then go to three, and then maybe keep it there.” And that’s one really easy way to lower your salt intake.

KIM: I think that might have been one of the facts that was the biggest bummer for me. ‘Cause it’s like, you do like to cook at home, but every once in a while, you do want that break. And then, I don’t know, sometimes it feels like it might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But…

AMANDA: Yeah, I hear you. And it’s not to say that we shouldn’t go out to eat, it’s just that, you know, kind of, think of it as this is a way to save money, but also just take a little bit better care of my health and then when we do go out to eat, you can really enjoy and appreciate it and, you know, maybe treat yourself a little bit.

KIM: Yeah, no that’s a great way to look at it. So, it sounds like cooking at home really is the way that we can get some more control over what we are eating.


KIM: So, let’s talk about making it taste good.


KIM: Like I said, it can be demoralizing hearing your doctor say you have elevated blood pressure or cholesterol and you have to cut back on certain things. So, let’s start with that abundance mindset. What can people add to their diets to make it healthier for their heart? What can people eat that they can have unlimited amounts of?

AMANDA: There’s a bunch of foods that we can add to our diet that are so beneficial to our heart health. So, several different groups of foods here. So, the first one that I wanted to address is foods that are rich in fiber. So, these are gonna be things like oats, beans, and lentils. Those are really big ones. And the cool thing, these are high in a type of fiber called viscous fiber, which is also really good for our cholesterol levels, but it’s believed that it’s also beneficial for our blood pressure as well. So, whenever I say the word “Beans,” people automatically think canned beans and, “Oh, but I can’t do canned beans.” No, canned beans can totally be a partapart of our diet. When we look at the ingredients label, typically the only things listed are water, salt, and the bean itself, unless it’s, like, a flavored one. And studies have shown that if we rinse and drain the beans in a colander, we can reduce the sodium content by 40% which is really cool. So, these can be a great way to add fiber to dishes where it wouldn’t otherwise be there. So, for example, if you’re making a chili where, maybe usually it’s just a meat chili, maybe you add some beans to it.

KIM: Controversial here in Texas.

AMANDA: I know, I know. Or maybe it’s, like, a pasta dish and you add some white beans or cannellini beans, or maybe it’s a soup that doesn’t call for beans, but you add some to the dish. So, we’re trying to sneak it in to things that we’re already eating. Or maybe you’re eating some scrambled eggs and you have a side of black beans or pinto beans with it. Some other things that we can add to our diet are also high-potassium foods. But before I get into that, I wanted to add a little bit of a disclaimer because we are talking about heart health. So, people who are on medications that make them retain potassium shouldn’t go overboard on their potassium intake and should talk to their doctor about it. This is also true for people who have kidney disease. They might need to watch their potassium intake as well. But I don’t want people who aren’t in those situations to worry about it because Americans actually do not eat enough potassium. That’s one of the nutrients that most of us aren’t getting enough of. So, it’s one to put a little bit more focus on. So, potassium, the great thing is that it's in a ton of different foods which makes it really easy to incorporate more of. The first group of foods that are high in potassium are gonna be our veggies and fruits. So, for fruits, we’d got things like honeydew, cantaloupe, we all know bananas,  right. Bananas are high in potassium; we got that one down. Also things like apricots as well. And then, when it comes to our veggies, we’ve got squashes like zucchini. Butternut squash, pumpkin, spinach is a really easy one, and same with tomatoes. And then even some foods like salmon and Greek yogurt are also pretty good sources of potassium as well. So, what potassium does is it helps to improve our blood pressure by increasing our body’s excretion of sodium. But it’s recommended to get it through our diet, not from supplements. So, that’s a big group of foods that we can add more of to our diet.

KIM: You had mentioned apricots and -- Does it matter? Do they have to be fresh or can I get dried? Do I have to worry about added sugar with that? Just curious.

AMANDA: Yeah, absolutely. So, dried apricots don’t have any added sugar. And the really cool thing about potassium, when it’s cooked or dried, the amount is not gonna lower in the food. I think a lot of us worry, “Oh my gosh, when I cook this food, is it gonna lower the nutrients that’s in it?” That does not hold true for things like potassium, magnesium, and other minerals. So, it’s gonna be fully retained in the food. If you cook that spinach, or you cook a tomato sauce, or you cook those beans, that potassium is going to still be in there.

KIM: While we’re talking about ingredients and getting fruits and veggies into our diet, something that Americans are seemingly obsessed with is protein. So, when we’re thinking about eating for our hearts, what should we consider when we’re choosing our protein types?

AMANDA: Protein can be a little bit controversial, right? We see all kinds of different conflicting advice on social media, but when it comes to our heart health, we do see that some of our plant-based proteins have an advantage. So, this is what I was talking about with things like beans and lentils. Per half-cup serving, they have eight or nine grams of protein, which is pretty good, and they’re also gonna be rich in that fiber that’s beneficial for our LDL cholesterol, helps to lower our LDL, and also can  be beneficial for our blood pressure as well. And it’s rich in potassium, so lots of reasons to add more beans and lentils to our diet. Outside of that, we’ve also got things like tofu and tempeh, which I feel like a lot of people are scared of. But I’d encourage you to just give it a try and have an open mind and be brave. And if you’re worried about it, you can always try it for the first time at maybe a restaurant and see how you feel about it before you go and buy the whole package yourself. And then we’ve got our other proteins. So, a category that tends to be heart healthy that I think a lot of us already know about is things like fish. Fish can be beneficial for our heart health because their omega 3 content. So, things like salmon, tuna, trout, and then we’ve also got things like canned tuna and canned salmon. Whenever it’s in a can, people worry that it’s not good for them. But just like with the beans, typically the only ingredients in canned salmon and canned tuna is water, salt, and the fish itself. So, if we wanna lower the salt content of it a little bit, we can, kinda, press the lid on top of it a little bit to, kinda, squeeze some of the juice out. That’s gonna have a lot of the salt. Or we can just, kinda, look at the labels and pick one that has a lower amount of sodium in it. So, just, kinda, look at a few at the grocery store, pick the one that’s lower in sodium. And canned salmon and canned tuna are one of my favorite ways to get dinner ready really fast or have a really fast lunch because they’re so convenient and so easy, and they’re shelf stable. So, I love to whip up a quick tuna salad or even use canned salmon or canned tuna on, like, a poke bowl. Some people might flinch a little bit at that, but I promise it’s really easy. When you see how easy it is you’re gonna love that. And then we’ve got our other proteins. So, chicken, poultry. Interestingly, there have been a few studies that show a slight increase in heart disease risk with chicken and poultry, but not all studies show that. So, researchers are trying to figure out, like, why that is and if that’s actually there are not. So, at this time, you know, totally still include it in your diet. And what we see in research is that when people replace things like beef and other forms of red meat in their diet with chicken and poultry, we see lower risk of heart health. So, that’s one thing that you can take a lot of comfort in.

KIM: I think that was a really good tip that I think I might take into my own life. Because I do find I’m more challenged with cooking plant-based proteins, and I love the idea of just going to a restaurant and trying it out just so you get a feeling for how it should be done before you be brave and try it at home.

AMANDA: Right, right, absolutely.

KIM: And then, kinda, to follow up with that, you know, if someone hears things and they’re like, “Ugh, geez now I have to be a vegetarian?” What would you say to that person?

AMANDA: Definitely not. So, I think that people feel like they have to be one or the other. They feel like when they get this diagnosis, they have to go fully plant-based, fully vegan, and that’s absolutely not the case. So, you can just incorporate a little of both into your diet. And it doesn’t have to be all one way or all the other way. And then you can still go out and get a steak on your anniversary or your birthday if you want to and that’s totally okay. So, it doesn’t have to be this all or nothing mindset that I think makes people feel really restricted and then causes people to, kinda, go back to what they were doing ‘cause they feel like it’s just too hard and too overwhelming.

KIM: Well, we know that processed and packaged foods and going out to restaurants, these are all the places where we see a lot of steep sodium levels in our diets, especially with packaged goods.


KIM: That can be for those of us listening who are like, “Well, I’m not a chef. I, kinda of rely on these -- They’re building blocks of my meal -- for a lot of my meals.” So, when it comes to things like canned foods and other things that might be in the middle aisles, that, you know, we like to shop the perimeter, but, you know, we go in the middle aisle sometimes too. What should we be looking for?

AMANDA: So, we already discussed how with canned foods, they are not the enemy, and they can make cooking really easy. So, we talked about with beans how rinsing them and draining them in a colander can reduce the sodium content by 40%. Studies haven’t specifically been done on canned veggies, but I would treat them the same, and, you know, if you like your canned green beans or something like that, just put them in a colander, let ‘em drain, maybe rinse them off a little bit, that’s gonna lower the salt significantly. We’ve also got some other things like packaged foods like canned soups. So, this is one that we’ve probably heard of being high in salt, and I did wanna confirm, it is pretty high in salt. Oftentimes a canned soup will be, like, about 1,200 milligrams of sodium for the whole can, most of us eat the whole can. And then we talked about earlier how for Americans, it’s recommended to stay under 2,300. So, if one can of soup’s got 1,200, that doesn’t leave us a whole lot of room for our other meals or, you know, maybe the crackers we wanna have with the soup. So, for the soup, I would just recommend checking the food label and picking one that says, like, “Reduced sodium,” and that one will tend to be a lot better. And then we’ve also got ramen. So, this is a favorite because it’s so easy. Some ramens out there can actually have more sodium in them than the daily recommended max.

KIM: Probably why they’re so tasty.

AMANDA: Yes, yeah. So, the other day I was looking at my husband’s ramen and it had over  2,000 milligrams for one of the little cups of ramen, which is a little bit high, but not all of them are like this. So, this is where looking at the label can really help in picking one that’s a little bit lower in sodium. One thing you can also do too if you love making ramen is to just use half the seasoning packet if it’s one that comes with a seasoning packet, and that’ll reduce the salt significantly. Or you can buy broth and then cook the ramen in the broth from the grocery store. Picking one that, you know, has a pretty decent amount of sodium instead of using the seasoning packet that it comes with.

KIM: So, while we’re on the topic, when we’re cooking and, kind of, starting from scratch with a dish, does it matter the type of salt we use?

AMANDA: Yeah, okay this is a really good question and one people ask all the time. So, we’ve got so many different kinds of salt at the grocery store nowadays. We’ve got Himalayan pink salt, and sea salt, and Kosher salt, and then we’ve got the regular old, iodized salt. So, it’s like, “Okay, is one better than the other?” with things like pink salt, that one’s become really popular recently. Yes, it will have trace amounts of minerals in it like magnesium for example, that’s what, kinda, gives it its color, these other minerals. But they’re very trace amounts and they’re not enough to make any significant impact on our heart health or our mineral intake. So, because of this, you don’t need to buy pink salt…


To be healthy. You can buy whatever salt that you like. And then we’ve also got iodized salt and table salt. So, a lot of people I think nowadays, kinda, fear the iodized salt ‘cause they worry like “What’s this additive?” Iodine is actually a mineral that all of us need, and the reason that iodine is added to salt is to help prevent iodine deficiency which can cause thyroid issues. So, it’s added because it’s an essential mineral, it’s not added as a preservative or anything like that. So, people don’t have to worry if they’re -- You know, they’ve got iodized salt at home. It’s not an issue or a concern for their health.

KIM: And when we are thinking about cooking with salt at home…


KIM: Is it just a matter of using less of it?

AMANDA: So, with salt, there’s a lot of, kind of, tricks that you can use to make food taste more salty and taste better without just upping the salt. But one thing I wanted to, kinda, highlight about the different salts is that they all have about the same amount of sodium. So, you know, one doesn’t have less salt than the other. But one, kinda key thing here, if the size of the crystal is really big, less of it is gonna fit into the teaspoon ‘cause there’s gonna be bigger air pockets between those big crystals of salt. If you gotta really fine table salt, a lot more of it can pack into the teaspoon, so there will be slightly less in a teaspoon of kosher salt or coarse grain salt compared to a teaspoon of table salt. So, just wanted to, kind of, highlight that there. Maybe you’re looking at a recipe and it calls for Kosher salt but you only have table salt, I would use in that case maybe ¾ of a teaspoon instead of the whole teaspoon because table salt will pack a lot tighter ‘cause of the little, tiny crystals.

KIM: Well, and you see that in recipes a lot now where they’re specifying the type of salt, so it is nice to know what you should do if, you know, you don’t have that in your pantry. We have talked a lot about salt, so what are other swaps that you can use when you’re trying to use less salt to season our food?

AMANDA: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think a lot of times when people try to eat less salt, they will oftentimes not add any salt to the food that they’re cooking, and that is a recipe for the food to not taste good.


So, don’t feel like you have to just add no salt or a normal amount that you would typically add. There is a happy medium. And then there is also things that we can add to make the food taste better. So, one easy thing is upping the amount of garlic and onion or just, like, the kind of powder or granulated onion and garlic that are in the dish. These will make it taste more savory, and a little bit -- have, like, a more deeper, complex flavor, which salt, kinda, does help the dish have. So, that can up the flavor and the taste. Another one is also the -- kind of, like, salt free or low sodium seasoning blends. These are oftentimes one of the easiest things for people to use. Just because, you know, just grab it from the grocery shelf, you don’t have to worry about, you know, adding all these different herbs and spices to the dish. And there are actually some pretty tasty ones out there, and I think a lot of times we think, “Oh, you know, you know that’s healthy, like, it’s not gonna taste good.” But I’ve tried some pretty yummy ones, and they can make the food taste really good. The last thing is also using things like herbs and spices that are in your cabinet that you’re not using. So, I feel like so many of us, we have all these herbs and spices and seasonings in our spice cabinet, and we just don’t use most of them like 90% of the time. So, you can add things to dishes, herbs and spices, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. And what this is gonna do is add flavor and add nutrition. So, for example, if it’s, like, an Italian dish, you can add some dried basil or if it’s a Greek dish, you can add some dried dill. So, just really try to start utilizing your spice cabinet more and open it up and really try to think about, “Oh, where could I use this one? Where could I use this one?” And that’s gonna help flavor your food while also adding some beneficial antioxidants because our herbs and spices, even if they’re dried, have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants that we can eat in foods, and all you have to do is sprinkle it on. It’s really easy.

KIM: I mean, it is a little bit revolutionary ‘cause I love buying spices and I find that I do have too many ‘cause I’ll buy one and be like, “Oh, for this very specific recipe…


KIM: Maybe I’ll return to it, maybe I won’t. But it is nice to know that this part of your pantry is adding something nutritionally, not just the flavor component.

AMANDA: Absolutely, absolutely. And we know that these antioxidants can be really good for our heart health, so just gotta utilize them a little more often.


KIM: We’ve been talking a lot about our friend salt, but another really crucial component of flavor is acid. Can you talk about why it makes our food taste good and, you know, should we be limiting that at all?

AMANDA: Yeah, so acid is one -- I think when we think of it, you know, we think of, “Oh, bad for my teeth…”


 Or like, “Oh, I don’t know if I should be eating that.” But actually, it can be a flavor enhancer that enhances the taste of salt. So, it will amplify the saltiness of food without actually adding more salt. And I’m not talking about white vinegar here, I’m talking more about things like lemon juice, lime juice, we know those have vitamin C, maybe some balsamic vinegar, or some apple cider vinegar, you know, that has a little bit more flavor than white vinegar.


So, as an example, if we were eating some grilled asparagus for example, if we were to add the same amount of salt to both and we were to squeeze lemon juice on one serving, no lemon juice, just plain asparagus on the other, the one that had the lemon juice on it would taste more salty than the one without lemon juice on it. So, this is, kind of, a food science thing that you can do to make your food taste better and make it taste a little bit more salty without actually adding any extra salt. And I really want you to try this because it will make a piece of fish taste amazing if you just add a little squeeze of lemon or lime, and it feels annoying to have to cut it, but it can really take it to the next level and really make it taste so much better.

KIM: Do you think it would be a good idea -- So, like I said, I love food media, cookbooks, chef-y things, you know. And so, some of them can be, as predicted, really heavy handed with the salt. Do you think it would be a good hack to just say, you know what, maybe I -- instead of adding more salt here, I should try adding acid first and see where I am with it?

AMANDA: Yeah, I would say that when it comes to acid, I would add that more to the finishing of the dish, so at the very end of cooking. So, like, if it’s a soup or a stew, you know, add it, kind of, at the end when you’re turning the stove off or when you’ve got on the plate, do that squeeze on there, because the cooking can dissipate the acid a little bit, so if you add it at the beginning of when you’re cooking a soup for example, you won’t taste it as strongly as if you added it towards the end. And then when it comes to salt, we do know that if we, kind of, wait until the very end or maybe just add salt on the plate and not add it while we’re cooking, the food, it’s not gonna taste as good as if we added some during cooking, it’s just not, because it, kinda, needs to permeate the food a little bit. So, what I would recommend is still adding some salt while cooking, but really trying to look at the amount because salt is one thing that our palate becomes adapted to. So, if we’re used to eating very salty foods, if we eat something lower in salt, we’re gonna be like, “Egh, this doesn’t taste very good.” but if our palate is used to eating less salt, if we eat something very salty, we’re gonna be like, “Oh my gosh, this is so salty.” So, what I would recommend doing is adjusting it over time so you can allow your palate to adapt and adjust rather than, kinda, going cold turkey saying, “I’m gonna take all the salt out of this recipe and only maybe add a little sprinkle on my plate.” No, maybe the recipe calls for a tablespoon and you add two teaspoons to start with and, kind of, adjust from there as your palate adjusts over time.

KIM: Again, following a lot of food media, things you see, you know, it seems like they’re constantly adding the salt in different stages of cooking.


KIM: Would you think it’s a good idea to just go ahead instead of having that salt pig right there at the go and you’re not measuring at all, should we be premeasuring and then -- So, we can still go through the step of adding it throughout our dish but we’re being actually mindful with it.

AMANDA: Yeah. I would definitely measure it. I think a lot of, kind of, cooks who love cooking don’t really like to measure their things very often. I’m a little guilty of this. I just, kinda, grab a big pinch of it. But I would measure it because what we know is that a teaspoon of salt has 2,300 milligrams of sodium, and that’s what we know the recommended maximum for Americans is, is 2,300 milligrams of sodium. So, one teaspoon is, kind of, our recommended max. And it sounds very small, but salt is a powerful ingredient, so I would recommend measuring it while you’re cooking and just, kinda, be conscious, “Okay, I’ve added a teaspoon this dish, do I really need to add more later?” Or, you know, “I’m gonna add maybe half a teaspoon then and half a teaspoon now, this serves eight people, so I know each plate isn’t gonna have that much salt in it per serving.”

KIM: Yeah, finding out how much sodium is in a teaspoon was a profound bummer.

AMANDA: Yeah, yeah. But as we said, you know, our palates do adjust over time. They really do. So, that’s why I, kinda, encourage people don’t go cold turkey because it’s not gonna be sustainable. Slowly make changes and adjustments.

[Music plays to signal a pause in the episode]

ZACH: There is no shortage of eating patterns and diets being marketed by companies and social media influencers, but are they heart healthy? The American Heart Association developed its definition of  a heart healthy eating pattern in 2021 and includes these key principles: Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains and products made up of mostly whole grains. Choosing healthy sources of protein, opting for mostly plants, including legumes and nuts, fish and seafood, low-fat or non-fat dairy, and if you eat meat and poultry, make sure it’s lean and unprocessed. Using liquid plant oils instead of tropical oils, choosing minimally processed foods instead of highly processed foods, lowering your intake of added sugars, preparing your food with little or no salt, and limiting your alcohol intake or quitting drinking all together. What diets meet the criteria? In 2023, the American Heart Association published a statement in its journal, Circulation, that rated ten popular diets against the organizations’ heart healthy eating principles. A panel of cardiologists rated the diets on a scale from one to one hundred for the scientific statement. The number one choice was the dietary approaches to stop hypertension, or as you may better know it by, the DASH diet, followed by the pescatarian diet. The popular Mediterranean diet came in third as it allows moderate alcohol consumption and doesn’t account for salt intake. Vegetarian and vegan diets rounded out the top five. Vegan and low-fat diets, while strongly aligned with heart-healthy eating, lost points because they may be too restrictive for most people to stay with for the long haul. Very low fat and low-carb diets as well as paleo and very low carb and keto diets were at the bottom of the pack because those eating patterns can restrict heart-healthy food choices, lower fiber intake, and while some may offer benefits in the short term, aren’t sustainable in the long term. So, what’s the takeaway? Any eating pattern you select to improve your heart health should be one that is easy for you to stick with.

[Music plays to signal resumption of episode]

KIM: Something that’s a little bit controversial online is, in terms of approaching a heart-healthy diet, is using monosodium glutamate, popularly known as MSG. MSG is a sodium molecule attached to glutamate, which is one of the most abundant amino acids found in nature so I think it naturally occurs in things like tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan cheese. Things that, you know, add that umami flavor. And MSG contains about 2/3 less sodium than salt. So, is this something that people can use to go 50/50 with MSG or perhaps use it entirely in place of salt?

AMANDA: Yeah, so this is a topic that there’s been a lot of fearmongering over and, kind of, fear from. You kinda talked about MSG and what it actually is, but I also just wanted to set, kind of, a little primer here. So, MSG is made when things like sugar beets or cane sugar are fermented and then, kinda, crystalized to make this thing called MSG, and a lot of us hear that word and are like, “Oh, bad.” But I did want to highlight that it does make food taste really savory and give it that rich, umami, kind of, more deep taste that can, kind of, mimic what salt does in dishes. And one interesting thing with MSG is it’s already in a lot of the foods that we might already eat but just don’t know that we’re eating it. So, a lot of fast food companies will add it to their food, even things like -- Fast food places that sell chicken. Also things like chips, it’s in certain chips, and even in things like canned soup. So, it’s in a lot of foods that are already out there, it’s not, kind of, this foreign thing that’s only in certain cultural foods. So, one thing I wanted to address was whenever you look up MSG online, you will see, oh, like, MSG can cause these symptoms. When we look at studies, only about 1% of people experience some side effects from MSG, so this could be like faster heart rate or maybe a little bit of flushed feeling in the face.  And as I mentioned, only 1% of people will experience this and this is to high amounts of MSG. So, something to the tune of, like, three grams whereas this is way more than what’s found in most foods and most dishes that would have MSG in them. So, intakes would have to be really high, and it’s thought to only impact a really small portion of the population. So, I’m not saying that you should eat it if you have a sensitivity to it, but I’m saying that most of us don’t have a sensitivity to it. For a lot of us, it would be totally okay to add to our cooking and add to our diet. So, what you could do if you wanted to try it is if you were making a dish that had, like, maybe four to six servings, maybe like a soup or a stew or something, which is, as we know, often a food that can be higher in sodium. Instead of adding salt, we could try adding half a teaspoon of MSG and we could see how it tasted. If you’re down for it, I would try experimenting with it and see how you feel about it ‘cause it’s something that we’ve done a ton of research on and lots and lots of studies have confirmed that it’s safe for Americans to eat.

KIM: And it’s just another potential tool in the toolbox, right? When you’re trying to figure out how to make food taste good for yourself at home.

AMANDA: Mhm. Right. There’s lots of different options that we’re talking about and, you know, we’re talking about all different little things that you could try, and this is one of them that you could sample if you wanted to.

KIM: Another tool in the toolbox that might be a little bit controversial, and there’s so much to choose from when you’re at the grocery store…


KIM: When we’re thinking about cooking oil.


KIM: What should we be considering?

AMANDA: Yeah, so this is another one, kind of, like salt where we’ve seen this aisle really, kind of, explode over the years, like so many options. Fifteen years ago, none of us were cooking with avocado oil and now, all of a sudden, all of us are loving it, right? So, we’ve got lots of different choices at the grocery store, but my favorites to recommend are the ones high in monounsaturated fats. So, this is a type of fat that we know and we add more of it to our diet or when we replace the saturated fat in our diet with monounsaturated fat, it will improve our LDL. So, this gonna be things like olive oil and also avocado oil. Avocado oil is a great option because it’s a cooking oil that we can cook to higher heats and then olive oil is one that I think a lot of, kind of, are like, “Oh, like, I shouldn’t heat it too hot.” And you know, that is true, you will, kind of, ruin some of the flavors especially if it’s a fancy extra virgin olive oil, if you heat it, right? It’s not gonna taste quite as good. However, it’s not going to make it harmful to eat per se, because, kinda, the cool thing is that some of the antioxidants that are in the olive oil help prevent it from oxidizing while we’re cooking with it. So, it’s not necessarily gonna be bad for you if you use your olive oil to sauté your food instead of avocado oil. I think a lot of times people feel like they can only add it to salad dressing or something like that, which -- You can totally cook with it. And then we’ve also got -- Some of us, you know, might wanna do oils that are a little bit more neutral. So, one more neutral tasting oil that still gives us some monounsaturated fats it peanut oil. It’s not quite as high in monounsaturated fat as avocado oil and olive oil are, but it still is a pretty good source of it. So, this is a good one if you were maybe trying to do a dish where it was a neutral oil or maybe it was, like, some kind of other dish where you didn’t want the flavor the olive oil has.

KIM: Asking for a friend, that friend being me, what about grapeseed oil?

AMANDA: Things like grapeseed oil and sunflower oil have been touted as great high heat cooking oils, and they do have a high smoke point which, this is the point where the oil will start to smoke when it gets too hot. They do have high smoke points, however they’re high in polyunsaturated fats which are good fats, but they’re more prone to oxidation. So, oxidation, when fats and oils oxidize, it’s not as good for our heart health. So, this is why I steer more people towards the oils I mentioned earlier because the oil won’t oxidize as much if it’s a monounsaturated fat because it has less double bonds. And I know I’m getting a little bit too sciency here, but basically it’s less prone to oxidizing which is isn’t as good for our heart health. One other thing I wanted to note, if you’re cooking and the oil starts to smoke, do not eat that oil. Toss it out and start afresh because when it smokes, when the oils smokes, it’s oxidizing and it’s not good, it’s gonna be higher in inflammatory compounds and things like that. So, don’t let your oil smoke. If you, kinda, turn around while the oil’s heating and then all of a sudden you notice it’s smoking, just start over.


It’ll be better for your heart health.

KIM: So, that’s good to know for me since, you know, I’ve got a few baking cookbooks and they’ll call out grapeseed oil and I’ve wondered, you know, “Is that okay?” But another one that you see a lot in recipes nowadays is coconut oil and other tropical oils. Are these good choices for us?

AMANDA: Coconut oil has gotten, kind of, a lot of hype and is one of those foods that I feel like it’s a little bit of a health halo. So, it’s not to say that we can’t cook with it, but what we see with research is that coconut oil will increase our good cholesterol, our HDL, but it can also increase our LDL as well, so it, kinda, increases both of them. So, when it comes to, kind of, the ratio of our cholesterol levels, this isn’t necessarily like a super bad thing, but, you know, what I like to share is that why not pick an oil that’s going to improve your good cholesterol while lowering your bad cholesterol? You know, coconut oil raises both, but these things like olive oil, avocado oil, they can improve our good one while lowering our bad one. So, kinda, interesting there and it’s not to say you can never use coconut oil, it adds a really yummy mouth feel and it’s a great substitute for butter if you’re trying to do a more plant-based dish, but just make the other ones your main cooking oil. I think when coconut oil really, kinda, became popular, a lot of us switched over to that as our main cooking oil. Don’t feel like you necessarily have to do that because there are options that can, kind of, be a little bit better for our cholesterol profile. And that, kind of, leads to a larger question about saturated fat, which I think, like, you know, this is another one of those things that we see a lot of conflicting messaging on social media, but I wanted to, kinda, break down the research on it a little bit. So, what we know is if we replace saturated fat in our diet with higher fiber foods like let’s say beans, lentils, whole grains, our cholesterol improves, our LDL improves and goes down, our bad cholesterol goes down. When we replace saturated fat in our diet with monounsaturated fats, so think things like nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado oil, our bad cholesterol goes down as well. Lowers our LDL. Here’s, kinda the interesting thing, when we replace saturated fat in our diet with refined carbohydrates or sugar, that does not improve our LDL, our LDL can go up. So, it’s a little bit more nuanced than just labeling this one thing as good or bad,  it’s all about, kind of, what we’re replacing it with. So, I feel like a lot of people, you know, maybe earlier on when low fat was, kind of, the main recommendation replaced fatty foods in their diet with more sugary and sweet foods and that may have actually not benefited their heart health like they were hoping it would. So, this is really just trying to reiterate that not all fats are bad, and some fats can be, you know, beneficial for our heart health. So, if you wanted to do some swaps, if you, for example, typically eat something like, you know, maybe bacon and eggs for breakfast, if you replaced that with oatmeal, with cinnamon and berries and walnuts or pecans, we would expect to see our cholesterol improve. If you replaced, for example, like, butter that you cook your eggs with, with olive oil, that would be another beneficial swap. So, it’s all about what we’re, kinda, substituting things for.

KIM: We’ve talked a lot about fats and we’ve talked a lot about sodium. Sugar is, you know, we think of it as the key to making our baked goods taste good…


KIM: And so, if we’re looking for swaps, are there good swaps for that white sugar in our pantry?

AMANDA: Yeah, so this is another question that we get asked a lot, like, “Okay, is brown sugar healthier than white sugar? ‘Cause it looks a little less refined, right?” It is still sugar.


I wish it wasn’t. And then also things like honey and maple syrup. Even though these come -- These are naturally occurring, they are still considered sugar and they’re very similar to just using brown sugar. In fact, if a recipe calls for things like honey or maple syrup, to some extent, it could be replaced by regular brown sugar. A lot of us will, kind of, add this and think, “Oh, you know, this is healthier.” It isn’t necessarily and another one that I feel like it’s a lot hype too is also coconut sugar. This is another thing that’s, kinda, marketed as a sugar substitute, however it is still sugar. So, all this to say is, you know, don’t feel like I’m saying to, like, not eat these things, just know that it is still sweetener and we just would wanna practice moderation and then maybe also utilize some of those tips I talked about earlier with, you know, maybe if we’re trying to make a muffin or something. Maybe we make a banana muffin because the banana’s gonna add potassium and natural sweetness to it.

KIM: Yeah, just really focus on adding nutrition…


KIM: Versus necessarily thinking about the lack of it.

AMANDA: Right, right. Yeah. So, like, whenever I work with people who are trying to improve their heart health, the conversation is not what can I take away but what can I add? So, we’re trying to add oats, we’re trying to add higher potassium foods, we’re trying to talk about oh what herbs and spices can you use in your pantry that you’re not using? So, this is what the conversation surrounds, it’s not like, “Don’t eat this, don’t eat that, don’t eat that.”

KIM: Yeah, it’s a really important reminder. We’ve talked a lot about ingredients, what we can add, what we should be thinking about moderating. What about our cooking methods? So, we’ve got a lot of tools in our toolbox here but are there some that we should avoid, are there some that we should be leaning into more?

AMANDA: Yeah, so this, I think, to a big extent does come down to personal preference. Some people just grew up on canned green beans and would prefer those any day to cooked green beans.


So, l know some of the things I say, you might be like, “Oh, actually I like the other one better.” So, really the best thing we can do is just get these nutritious foods into our diet. Don’t feel like -- I feel like a lot of people think they have to eat steamed frozen veggies, you know, to be heart healthy, and that’s absolutely not the case. So, things like roasting veggies or even air frying them, kind of, caramelizes them and gets them a little bit browned and they can taste a little bit sweeter when they have a little bit of that caramelization on them and that can make them taste a little bit better if you’re somebody that, you know, maybe isn’t super sure how they feel about veggies. So, the one I like to use a lot, you know, maybe if you grew up eating Brussels sprouts that were boiled, oh my gosh, the thought of eating them is horrible, but then maybe you go to a restaurant and you try some roasted Brussels sprouts and you’re like, “Hey, maybe these aren’t so bad after all.”

KIM: Roasting Brussels sprouts really does give them a glow up.

AMANDA: Yeah, 100%. ‘Cause if you’ve ever tried boiling or steaming those things, like, I can see why they get the rap that they do. But they are a cruciferous veggie that are super nutritious for us. So, if you’re trying to add more veggies to your diet to be a little more heart healthy, try roasting them ‘cause they’ll, kinda, caramelize, that’ll add flavor and depth, whilealso just making them taste a little bit better.

KIM: So, when we think about things like canned veggies, frozen veggies, just how we approach cooking some of our foods, are we losing anything when we choose certain methods? Like, do we have to keep that in mind? Like, “I’m making corn, I absolutely can’t roast it.” You know, things like that.

AMANDA: Definitely not. So, as I mentioned earlier about potassium, like, minerals will be preserved when we cook with them. They’re not destroyed by heat. When it comes to things like certain nutrients like beta carotene, vitamin A. So, interestingly, with things like carrots, we know those are high in Vitamin A, we will actually absorb more of the Vitamin A if it’s cooked than if it’s raw. So, for some things, the nutrients become more available, more easy to absorb after cooking than if we were to eat it raw or just lightly steamed. Like, you know, we might feel like we need to do. So, all this just to say is that don’t feel like you only need to eat raw veggies or steamed veggies because a lot the nutrients will be preserved. Some, the nutrient absorption might even be enhanced. So, I think this is where things like roasting or, maybe, you know, air frying can be really handy. One that I wanted to address, just for the sake of addressing it is Vitamin C. When we cook it, the amount of vitamin C will be diminished, but the great thing is that a lot of the foods that are really high in Vitamin C are fruits, and those are ones we typically don’t cook. So, if you’re worried, just try to eat some fruit and you’re gonna make sure you get your Vitamin C in, and then, you know, cook your veggies how you like them. Maybe you like them from the can, maybe you like just to cook some frozen veggies ‘cause that’s easiest for you, or maybe you like roasting your veggies ‘cause that’s what tastes best for you.

KIM: Oh, makes a lot of sense. This was something that I didn’t really know about, but I guess I’m not shocked, but could you walk me through the temperature that you serve your food. Does that affect how good it tastes?

AMANDA: Yeah, so this is a really interesting one that I think a lot of us don’t really think about with our food. So, the first one I wanted to, kinda, just bring to your mind is think about ice cream. So, think about a time where you ate really cold ice cream, and then think about a time where the ice cream was mostly melted or pretty warm and melty. That warm ice cream probably tasted a lot sweeter than the really cold ice cream. And this, kinda, illustrates what I’m trying to say. So, when things are really cold, we’re not gonna perceive the taste of sweetness or saltiness as well. This is also true for very hot foods. So, when foods are over about 95 degrees, we start to not taste them as well because they’re really hot. What we’re trying to say here is the temperature, having it somewhere in the middle might amplify the taste of salt without actually changing the amount of salt in the dish. So rather than serving your dish super cold or piping hot, have it be, you know, warm and heated, but not piping hot and that will enhance the flavor a little bit.

KIM: It’s almost like you’re making a case for the office microwave.



KIM: Like, no sad, cold lunches on your desk anymore. Consider that microwave.


KIM: Even just a little bit.

AMANDA: And when it is warm, but, you know, obviously not overly hot, we will smell the food more. More of the aromas are brought into the air. And we know that part of flavor is also the smell, and part of enjoying food is also the smell of food. So, by eating it warm, we will also get that good smell as well.

KIM: You know, I think you brought up something, ‘cause we focus so much on the actual preparation, I think is another hack simply to just be present and enjoy what you’re eating?

AMANDA: Yeah, yeah. So, this is one that I really like to talk about, especially in terms of, like, desserts and sweets. So, what I recommend to people, like, you know, a lot of us really love dessert, and I’m not saying that you need to cut it out of your diet, I just want it to be a more mindful experience. So, what I encourage and work with my patients to do is when you’re eating dessert, be sitting down. That’s gonna allow you to enjoy it more and become more satisfied from it than if you’re, kinda, standing and, kinda, walking around. Another thing too is to look down at the food you’re eating or dessert that you’re eating. Because studies have shown that when we can see the food on our plate and see the food, you know, kinda, slowly disappearing and going into our stomach, we perceive a greater sense of fullness than if we aren’t looking down at our food or can’t see our food. So, this is really an interesting one because we live in this world of distraction, right? So, I’m not saying that you can’t, you know, maybe watch something while you’re eating or look at your phone while you eat, just try to look down more at the food that you’re eating, and that’s gonna help you feel more satisfied and full from it. And what this does, it helps us to appreciate those desserts a little bit more, so maybe we don’t feel like we have to keep, kinda, stopping by and, you know, grabbing another cookie, right? Because we really enjoyed that cookie when we did eat it.

KIM: I felt that personally in my life. My husband and I went to Europe a few months ago and most places we went to, at the end of the meal, they’d offer up a small desert, something as simple as small curd cheese with honey and nuts along with a cup of espresso. It was so nice to sit and really relish the experience. I did stay up way later than I had intended, but it was such a nice ritual that, you know, I would definitely do that here, just probably with decaf.

AMANDA: Right, yeah. And I think it speaks to that, kind of, like, mindfulness act of eating that dessert that made it a lot more enjoyable ‘cause you were really focused on it, you weren’t, kinda, walking around your kitchen or house trying to do chores or trying to pack your lunch for the next day, or cook while you’re, you know, kind of, snacking on this. And it just, kinda, teaches us, “Okay let’s slow down and appreciate our food a little more because this is an evidence-based way to help us become more satisfied from our food which can help us feel more satisfied and maybe eat a more moderate or mindful portion.

KIM: So, I really wanna thank you for this conversation because, you know, I think a lot of folks facing, you know, “Oh, I have higher BP now and I’ve gotta be -- or I just simply can’t eat the way I used to because, you know, I’m seeing more weight around the mid-section,” as we all age. You know, being able to realize that, you know, you don’t have to stop enjoying your food because you’re facing something with…


KIM: With your health, you know. You can keep going.

AMANDA: Yeah, no absolutely. And I think it comes down to trying new things and being open-minded and trying some of these techniques that we know can make the food taste better. Maybe even taste better than what we were doing.

KIM: I love that optimism, I love it. So, I feel empowered to go home and embark on making some of my best dishes, albeit, probably a little bit healthier than I was doing before.

AMANDA: My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

[ Sound effect signaling end of interview]

ZACH: So, a lot of this is about taking control of your intake, right? What you put into your body. And as someone who loves to go out to eat, again, not Mr. Kitchen, right? I’m like, “Well, I’m putting myself in a situation where I don’t have a lot of control,” ‘cause you don’t know the exact ingredients of what they’re doing back there. Now, you can look for, like, a lot of restaurants nowadays have a, like, maybe a low sodium or healthy menu or something like that. Little symbol next to certain items on the menu. But I don’t know about you Kim, but for me, when I go out to eat, I go out to eat because I wanna eat something specific. It’s like, the menu is just whatever. Like, I already know I’m going there for a certain something, so I’m not gonna necessarily scan to find something healthier when I go to one of my favorite places, right?

KIM: Oh yeah. I really love cooking, and so I do it a lot during the week, and so I really view going out to eat as special, because, you know, I’m taking care of my meals throughout the week. And like you, when I go out to eat, I wanna go out for something very specific and I’m not necessarily thinking, “Oh, is this going to be very nourishing for me?” But I think that has a place, right? And I think that was one of the most uplifting parts of our conversation was there is definitely a time for you to go out and enjoy having food made for you at the restaurant, but, you know, you do have so much more control in the kitchen. So, find the ways that will make it easier for you to have food you enjoy at home.

ZACH: Yeah, this is one of the more positive conversations we’ve had with an expert ‘cause usually it’s like, “Well, you can’t do this, you can’t do that.” Right,? But this has left you with, kind of -- Left me, anyway, with a more hopeful feeling about things.

KIM: Yeah, and I think approaching making your own food with this bravery, you know, because I think there’s no shortage of food content on social media, blogs, like what have you. And when you’re looking at that kind of stuff, you’re not always thinking of nutrition but having the tools that we’ve learned today in the conversation can help you approach some of that stuff with a little bit more mindfulness so you can make better choices for yourself.

ZACH: Yeah, and Amanda said, you know, be creative, right? Have fun with your ingredients. Look in your spice cabinet, which I think we all have -- Regardless of how much or how little you cook, we probably have a bunch of stuff in there that we never use. So, you know, try to find a way to use it. Maybe find a good -- A better, healthier salt alternative and spice up your food that way. But going back to salt real quick. A very scary thing you guys talked about was how much salt is recommended, which is basically a tablespoon a day?

KIM: A teaspoon.

ZACH: Even worse.


That is crazy.

KIM: Yeah, that was probably one of the more shocking things that I learned because again, I love cooking. And so, when you’re looking at recipes online, they’re recommending a teaspoon for an entire recipe and you’re like, “Well, that’s it. That’s the whole day right there.”

ZACH: That’s better than “Salt to taste,” though.

KIM: Yeah, “Salt to taste” is really dangerous, but even some of the recipes will say a teaspoon of salt, then salt to taste. So, as you’re finishing a dish, go ahead and, you know, pop a little more in there.

ZACH: Oh, this is not tasty enough? Just pour more on. Yeah, yeah. We don’t want that.

KIM: Yeah. But, you know, I thought a very interesting thing that Amanda shared was using acid at the end of cooking to help brighten that salt is a really good way to augment that tastiness that salt brings to the table. So, you know, it doesn’t always have to be salt that’s bringing flavor to your dish.

ZACH: Mhm.

KIM: I’m glad to hear that you thought that the conversation was really uplifting because I really wanted it to be that way, just because I think with a lot healthcare topics, it can be really doom and gloom sometimes just because when you’re facing a diagnosis, there are a lot of changes that you have to make and not all of them are fun, and food really is one of the, at least to me. Maybe I’m showing my Taurean nature here but I think food is really one of life’s great joys. And so, even when you’re facing something like high blood pressure, you should be able to enjoy your food and find joy in everyday life.

ZACH: Absolutely. Well, that’s gonna do it for this episode of On Health with Houston Methodist. Be sure to share, like and subscribe wherever you get your podcast. We drop episodes Tuesday mornings, so until then, stay tuned and stay healthy.

[Music ends signaling end of episode]

Categories: Tips to Live By