Try This Heart Healthy Recipe (You Won’t Miss The Salt!)

February 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm , by

We’ve been blogging and tweeting nonstop this month to get the message across: Way too many women are dying of heart disease. One of the things you can do to keep your heart healthy is cut back on salt to prevent high blood pressure. That’s why we tapped our friend Jessica Goldman Foung, also known as Sodium Girl, to share some delicious recipes from her new book Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook.

By Jessica Goldman Foung

Why not do something for your heart this Valentine’s Day? Not just your figurative heart—the one that beats for your special someone—but your actual heart that beats to keep you going. Back in 2004, when an aggressive attack of the autoimmune disease lupus caused my kidneys to fail, my eating habits had to change a lot. When you have excess sodium in your diet (and trust me, if you’re not paying attention, you probably do), the extra salt spills into your bloodstream, which makes you retain fluid and raises your blood pressure. Your kidneys normally regulate your sodium level, so for me, losing the salt was a must.

It took a life-threatening event to get me to ditch salt, so I know it’s hard. But what I learned is that nearly everyone can—and should—cut back. The average American consumes almost 3,500 mg of sodium every day, which is double the recommended amount.

Without salt, I became more daring and playful in the kitchen. I started eating vegetables that used to scare me like bok choy, leeks and Brussels sprouts, and I experimented with cuisines I’d never tried, including Moroccan, Indian and Korean. I was determined to make over salty meals that I’d always loved, which led to discovering many replacements for high-sodium ingredients, like soy sauce. Yes, even soy sauce! So I know anyone can do it.

I had to figure it all out on my own, so I’m happy to share a recipe to get you started. Read more for one of my favorite low-so recipes: Tamarind “Teriyaki” Skewers (pictured above).

I love the viscous, sweet taste of teriyaki sauce, but it contains 300 to 700 mg of sodium per tablespoon. That means teriyaki chicken from the local takeout is out of the question for me. So, to meet my cravings, I let go of the original dish and focused on finding a substitute with a similar color, thick coating and unique flavor. The low-sodium answer is: tamarind paste, a sweet and tart concentrate made from tamarind seedpods. It is popular in Indian, Middle Eastern and East Asian cuisines, and can be found in many grocery stores (such as Whole Foods). If you have any leftover herbs in your kitchen, like mint, cilantro or even some green onion, dice and sprinkle them over the chicken at the end for extra color and cool flavor.

Serves 6
1 tablespoon tamarind paste (or substitute with pomegranate molasses)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons molasses
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 garlic cloves, diced
3⁄4 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1⁄2-inch-wide strips
Bamboo skewers
White toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
2 green onions, thinly sliced (everything but the bulb), for garnish

  • In a small pot or saucepan, mix together the first 7 ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low and cook 10 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water until it’s dissolved and smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to the pot and stir until it’s well combined and the sauce begins to thicken like a glaze. Continue to cook and reduce by one-third, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pot with a lid to keep sauce warm.
  • In a large skillet, heat sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and about a quarter of the sauce and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Then turn the chicken pieces over, adding another quarter of the sauce. Cook until the inside of the meat is white, 6 to 8 minutes more.
  • Remove chicken from heat and allow it to rest until the pieces are cool enough to handle. Weave chicken pieces onto bamboo skewers, about 4 per skewer, and place them on a serving dish or platter. Drizzle remaining sauce over skewers and sprinkle with white toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions. Serve and eat immediately.

Sodium count: tamarind paste: 20mg per ounce, depending on brand; molasses: 10mg per 1 tablespoon; chicken thigh (with skin): 87mg per 1⁄4 pound

I like to serve this with my Low-So Kimchi or Spicy Green Beans. For those recipes, click here and here.

For more low-sodium advice, cooking tricks and share-worthy recipes, be sure to check out and the new Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook.

Recipe adapted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook by Jessica Goldman Foung. Copyright 2013.