Cooking with herbs: Reducing the risk of high blood pressure

Using your herbs to reduce salt intake is just what the doctor ordered.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide with high blood pressure potentially being a major risk factor. According to the American Heart Association an estimated one-in-three Americans will develop high blood pressure and a high-sodium diet may be responsible. For some, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, creating an added burden on the heart.

If you read labels on processed food or soup you may see high sodium content. Similarly, most homes have a salt shaker in the middle of the table. When people begin to be conscientious about their salt intake they may look for alternate ways to season food.  A better way to cut down on salt intake is to season with herbs.  Herbs are not going to taste like salt, but they do provide flavors that can tempt your taste buds and make you wonder why you ever thought salt was so important.

Michigan State University Extension offers these suggestions for using herbs :

  1. Parsley gives food a fresher overall taste and can help heighten the flavor of other spices. Parsley leaves and roots are high in iron content and rich in vitamins A, B, C and trace minerals. Parsley adds color and aids digestion of the foods we eat and acts to prevent gas and bloating,
  2. Savory (Satureja) – Savory comes in two varieties, summer and winter savories, but either can be used in any season. It is from the satureja plant and is a member of the mint family, and has a flavor similar to oregano or marjoram.
  3. Sage - Sage is a very aromatic, woody flavored herb that has a flavor very resilient to cooking. It is particularly common in pork dishes and in bread stuffing.
  4. Cilantro – Cilantro is a common ingredient in Mexican dishes, such as salsas and guacamole and many think it tastes somewhat like citrus.
  5. Basil – Basil is common in Italian dishes, and tastes both sweet and spicy

In addition to reading labels and using herbs in place of salt try the following tips:

  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetable often
  • Limit the amount of processed foods you eat and your portion size
  • Take control of what is in your food by cooking more at home

Help yourself and your family make healthy choices by trying herbs with your meals and snacks to kick your habit of using salt!

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