Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Herbs and Spices Make Great Salt Substitutes

It’s been a general rule of thumb; less salt = lower blood pressure. So, why is it so difficult to use less of it at the table and in cooking? My guess is that we’re afraid to miss out on flavor. So, to avoid salt without sacrificing flavor, I have listed some of my tried and true remedies for you to add to your pantry. However, don’t be afraid to experiment with making your own seasoning blends. Just be sure to share your favorite blends with me.

Chinese five-spice blend for chicken, fish, or pork
Combine ¼ cup ground ginger, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground cloves, and 1 tablespoon each ground allspice and anise seed.

Mexican blend for chili, enchiladas, and tacos
Combine ¼ cup chili powder; 1 tablespoon each ground cumin and onion powder; 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper; and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Mixed herbs for salads, steamed vegetables, or fish
Combine ¼ cup dried parsley, 2 tablespoons dried tarragon, and 1 tablespoon each dried oregano, dill weed, and celery flakes.

Hidden salt
In this age of tricky consumer marketing, it is doubly important to always check the nutrition labels of prepackaged foods for the amount of sodium it contains. Salt is commonly added as a preserving or flavoring agent in frozen entrees, luncheon meats, canned vegetables, and even frozen chicken and turkey breasts. So be careful!

Condiments like soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, pickles, MSG (monosodium glutamate), and some prepared seasonings typically contain lots of salt. Not to mention that restaurant and fast foods are notorious for containing high levels of salt.

Sodium causes the body to retain fluid, and this fluid retention is a major contributor to high blood pressure. Excessive water also means excessive body weight and inflammation that can produce physical pain. Experts recommend adults over forty limit daily sodium levels to 2,300 milligrams per day — the equivalent of about 1 tsp. of table salt. However, a lower sodium level — 1,500 mg a day — is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who have already developed hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

I know this doesn’t seem like much salt to work with, but that's because we have become so accustomed to the flavor of excessive salt in our foods. Once your palate has had a hance to re-adapt, you will begin to enjoy the actual flavor of the foods you are eating and the combinations of seasonings that naturally enhance the dining experience.

Stay fit. Eat healthy, and Always – Enjoy Your Life.

John Aaron Villarreal

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