For Jessica Goldman, cutting down on salt was a matter of life or death.
In 2004, the San Francisco native was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disorder that had attacked her kidneys and rendered them incapable of processing high levels of sodium. After spending nearly a year on dialysis anticipating a kidney transplant, Jessica began to experiment with low-sodium cooking. Her health miraculously improved—and her meals got a lot more exciting.
"A lot of people pitied me and said, 'Your diet must be so bland without salt,' " Jessica says. "In all honesty, it was way better! I was improving my cooking skills and becoming a more adventurous eater." So Jessica, now 28, started a blog called Sodium Girl (sodiumgirl.wordpress.com), where today she shares her recipes and low-salt savvy with a devoted and hungry following. With a Sodium Girl cookbook due out next year, Jessica offers a peek at her go-to ingredients.
Citrus juice: "I use freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice to add subtle dimension to slow-cooking dishes like roasted chicken and pulled pork, or I splash them on at the last minute to brighten dishes like grilled fish and kale salad."
Fruit: "It's not just for dessert! The sweetness naturally enhances savory flavors, as in classic dishes like pork chops and baked apples. But don't be afraid to experiment. One time I made a blueberry steak sauce that was amazing."
Infused oils: "I've always loved plain extra virgin olive oil, but now that I've discovered versions infused with garlic and other extras, I'm really hooked. These oils are a great way to take a really simple dish—like chicken and rice—and give it a punch of unexpected flavor."
Fresh herbs: "The intense flavor of dill, basil, oregano, parsley, and other leafy herbs can wake up almost any dish. I throw them in at the end of cooking to ensure their flavors stay bright."