Lower your salt and sodium intake with spices and herbs

Salt or sodium can easily be replaced with many different spices and herbs.

Are you looking for ways to spice up your foods? There are many alternatives to salt that can be used to make your meals more flavorful. Too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. This condition is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases which are the leading cause of death worldwide. The average person only needs 200 mg of sodium in their diet for the proper functioning of their body. The American Heart Association recently reduced the recommended daily allowance of sodium from 2,300 mg to 1,500 mg.

It does not take much salt to get our daily allowance of sodium. A quarter teaspoon of salt contains 600 mg while a half teaspoon of salt contains 1200mg of sodium. Most of our daily sodium intake comes from prepackaged foods. Sodium related terms are important to understand as you navigate your way through the supermarket. Sodium free products contain less than five mg of sodium per serving. Very low sodium products have 35 mg or less per serving. Low sodium products have 140 mg or less per serving. If a package states that it is light in sodium it must be reduced in sodium by at least 50 percent per serving. Food labels cannot claim a product is healthy if it exceeds 480 mg of sodium per reference amount, according to the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture.

So what can you do to reduce your sodium and spice up your meals? Add herbs and spices. Many of us don’t add spices because we are not familiar with all of the options and how to use them. Herbs are leaves of low growing shrubs. Examples of herbs include parsley, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, caraway, dill, oregano, rosemary, savory, sage, and celery leaves. All of these can be used fresh or dried. Spices come from the bark, root, buds, seeds, berries or the fruits of tropical plants and trees. Cinnamon is from the bark of a tree and ginger, onion and garlic are examples of roots. Cloves and saffron are buds. Yellow mustard, poppy, and sesame are seeds. Black pepper is a berry and allspice and paprika are from fruits.

Some cultures have a preference in which spices they use. Many Italian dishes include oregano while many French dishes include marjoram. Mexican cuisine uses cilantro quite a bit and Chinese cooking included ginger. You can take cooking cues from the cuisine of different cultures, but don’t be afraid to be adventurous with herbs and spices. Try adding curry powder, garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme, dill or poultry seasoning when cooking meat, poultry, and fish. Experiment with cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage when cooking vegetables.

Herbs and ground spices can generally be kept for one year. Whole spices will keep for two years. If a spice or herb smells strong and flavorful, it is probably still potent. The next time you go to add salt to food you are preparing, think about what herbs and spices you have on hand that could replace the salt and give it a try. You may find that spicing up your foods is more flavorful while being a healthy alternative to salt.