Spice up your life!

How to add flavor without salt and sugar.

Are you concerned about the amount of sugar and/or salt you are consuming? Are you not sure on how to cut back without losing the full flavors that you’re accustomed to? Michigan State University Extension states that adding spices and herbs may be a way to increase flavors in your foods without adding those excess elements.

The difference between a spice and an herb is quite simple. Herbs are the leaves of low growing shrubs and spices that come from the other parts of the plant, like the bark, buds, roots, seeds, fruits or berries of trees and plants. Many of us may have herb gardens either outdoors in the summer or on a sunny windowsill all year long. Spices are usually found in the grocery store. Whether home grown or store bought, either can be a great investment for your culinary experiences.

You can reduce the amount of sugar in recipes by using spices that are sweet tasting like: Cinnamon, allspice, anise, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and mace. If you haven’t heard of some of these spices, you may choose to pick up a small quantity to try. If you purchase something new that you end up not liking, it is less of an investment if you don’t have a large jar of it left. However, in trying a new herb or spice you may just find a flavor that you haven’t tasted before that causes you to forget about adding extra sugar you don’t need – and you can go back to purchase more!

Salt can be reduced in your foods in many ways. The University of Nebraska has plenty of information about herbs and spices, and provides these tips to help reduce the salt in your foods:

  • Savory flavors, with “bite” such as black pepper, garlic powder, coriander and onion are very good in replacing the taste of salt.
  • Use basil, parsley, oregano and pepper or Italian seasoning when cooking pasta, and omit adding salt to the water.
  • Always check labels to see if sodium or salt are listed. Choose to use other low sodium products.
  • Use garlic and onion powder instead of their salt cousins and use only half as much in a recipe.

Implement the following tips for storing your herbs and spices to maintain quality and to avoid the flavor loss:

  • Store in tightly covered containers in a dark place.
  • Avoid storing above any appliance that emits heat or steam, like your oven or dishwasher.
  • If using an open spice rack, keep away from heat, light and moisture.
  • When adding to a hot dish, sprinkle the herb or spice into your hand, or use a dry spoon to remove from the container to avoid moisture from entering the spice jar. You will also avoid over spicing your dish this way.

If you choose to use herbs and spices to omit excess sugar and spice from your diet, experimenting with these new and different tastes may be fun and exciting for you. Get your creative juices going and smell the aromas and tastes of new combinations. You may end up surprising yourself and others, while staying a little healthier!

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