Eating Tip of the Month

Enhancing Flavor without the Salt

Salt, the magical mineral that makes food come alive.

It is the spellbinding substance that laces food on grocery store shelves, and it has become our best friend at the dining room table as we sit down to eat an evening meal. We add it to our foods to mask flavors we may not like and we add it to accentuate those that we do.

However, research has shown that consuming too much of this magical mineral may be detrimental to our health, as it causes increased blood pressure, which is the number one risk for stroke and contributes largely to heart disease. In fact, this magical mineral is so inimical that to reduce the risk of developing heart disease the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends focusing on eating a diet with no more than 2,300mg of sodium every day, or if this is not achievable, to try and decrease current sodium intake by 1,000mg every day.

Cutting down on sodium does not mean you have to give up flavor. Using herbs and spices to flavor meals, instead of adding salt, is a great way to reduce salt intake and enhance taste. According to the American Spice Trade Association, spices and herbs such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, dill, basil, ginger, coriander, and onion are the most effective in replacing the taste of salt and adding zest to any recipe. And the best part about using herbs and spices is the flexibility that these flavor-enhancers offer. For instance, depending on the recipe, type of cuisine, or personal preference, you can mix up various herbs or spices to create a delectable dish composed of a unique flavor profile.

When purchasing herbs and spices to cook with, try to find them in bulk so you can purchase them in smaller amounts as needed. And if buying fresh herbs, store them in the refrigerator in a glass of water or wrapped in a damp paper towel in a sealed plastic bag to maintain freshness. Furthermore, keep an eye out in the grocery store for certain sodium-free seasoning blends, such as Mrs. Dash. These blends are fantastic salt alternatives that come in a variety of combinations for all different types of dishes. And when cooking with fresh herbs, add them near the end of the cooking process so as to not dilute their essence, and add more fresh herbs than dried to your recipe, as dried herbs are more concentrated than their fresh counterparts.

If you choose to go zesty instead of salty, keep in mind that replacing salt with herbs and spices might require a slight adjustment for a short time. Stick with the switch though, as the benefits are numerous!

Here are some suggested herbs and spices and dishes that they can enhance:

Allspice: Use in meats, fish, poultry, soups, stews, and desserts

Basil: Use in soups, salads, vegetables, fish, and meats

Chili Powder: Use in meats, poultry, vegetables, fish, and stews

Cinnamon: Use in salads, vegetables, breads, and snacks

Cumin: Use in meats and poultry

Curry Powder: Use in meats, shellfish, and vegetables

Garlic: Use in soups, stews, salads, vegetables, meats, poultry, seafood, and sauces

Ginger: Use in soups, salads, vegetables, and meats

Nutmeg: Use in vegetables and meat

Oregano: Use in soups, salads, vegetables, meats, and poultry

Thyme: Use in salads, vegetables, fish, and poultry