In 2005, when Chris Lower was 35, he contracted a flu virus that landed in his heart and left him with congestive heart failure. Doctors gave him five years to live. Lower, newly married and months away from becoming a father, committed to doing everything possible to prolong his life.
Today, 15 years later, Lower continues to embrace the unexpected. His heart condition has made him a good cook, a popular blogger and most recently, a published cookbook author.
When Lower received his heart diagnosis, he was told to follow a low sodium diet, but he quickly found a lack of info about how to eat—and especially cook—food with lower salt content. “I had always hated diets,” Lower says. “I hated the denial aspect. I knew I had to change it into a lifestyle.” He perfected just one low sodium meal, then he added new recipes. Slowly, he learned what food tastes like without the ubiquitous salt and found he liked food better that way. “You can change your taste buds,” Lower says. “The longer you do it, the easier it becomes.”
The diet, in addition to medication and other treatments, has been effective. Lower is living a full life; he and his wife Mary started their own business and added twins to their family. This meant that meals must now be palatable to three young kids. By stocking the pantry carefully and relying on new spices, the entire family enjoys a low sodium diet.
But hurdles remain. In 2014 Lower received a heart transplant. While in recovery at the hospital, he had a roommate who was overwhelmed to learn he needed to adopt a low sodium diet. Lower counseled the man on what to order off the hospital menu and was surprised to realize that even ten years since cutting salt from his diet, little practical information was available to patients about low sodium food. Grateful for the recommendations, Lower's roommate half-jokingly suggested Lower come to his house to plan menus for him. “That’s when I got the idea to start a blog,” Lower says. From this conversation hackingsalt.com was born.
The blog has grown to include a wide array of recipes. A definite favorite is Lower’s Buffalo wild wings recipe. This recipe is so popular it was printed in the Dr. Oz magazine. Soon after, a publisher informed Lower that he was the number one low sodium blogger in the U.S., and they asked him to publish a cookbook.
In addition to Lower’s tried-and-true recipes, it includes information on how to read labels, stock a pantry and substitute spices for salt.
The Easy Low Sodium Diet Plan and Cookbook, available online since June, was written mostly from a hospital room, where Lower is awaiting a second heart transplant. But, he remains focused on the future: “I want to pay it forward.
I want to do anything I can to keep someone healthy and out of a hospital.”