Goodbye Salt, Hello Herbs & Spices
By Alyssa Rolnick RD., MHSc.
Heart and Stroke Foundation Nutrition Columinst
Using herbs and spices - both fresh and dried - in your cooking is one of the best and most flavourful ways to help you lower your salt intake.
Why is lowering salt intake important? Sodium can increase blood pressure, especially in salt-sensitive people. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke, and a major risk factor for heart disease. A diet low in sodium can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. So, rely less on your salt shaker to add flavour and enjoy seasoning your foods with these herbs and spices:
- Garlic both raw and ground is so versatile that it can be added to almost any dish. Pure garlic powder (check label to make sure salt hasn't been added) has all the same benefits as raw garlic. Roasted whole garlic cloves add tang to pasta dishes and roasted potatoes, and to salads such as black-eyed pea roasted garlic salad.
- Cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes and raw chili peppers all contain capsaicin, which gives chilies their heat. Any will add zing to meat, fish and egg dishes. Try sprinkling a pinch of ground cayenne or red pepper flakes into pasta sauces; try spiced salmon sticks.
- Turmeric gives a bright yellow colour to curries and rice dishes. Sprinkle over cooked potatoes, rice or couscous to add a wonderful flavour and colour. Try turmeric-scented basmati rice.
- Cinnamon is often used in desserts, but can also be sprinkled in savoury dishes such as stews or meat sauces instead of salt. Try cinnamon apple bread pudding.
Fresh versus dried
In general, you can substitute 5 mL (1 tsp) of dried herbs for 15 mL (1 tbsp) of fresh herbs and vice-versa. The biggest difference between dried herbs and fresh herbs are taste and potency. Fresh herbs have a subtler, fresher taste. Dried herbs, on the other hand, lose their pungency the longer you store them.
The best herbs and spices to use are the ones that taste right for you. So experiment and make your dishes heart healthier by limiting the salt you use and replacing it with the wonderful world of herbs and spices.