Ditch the salt shaker, cook with herbs, spices
While a certain amount of sodium is essential for good health, our salt consumption has risen by 50 percent since the 1970s. (Photo by Bill Hogan)
Salt is an acquired taste. Most foods in their natural state contain some amount of sodium. Unfortunately, we have forgotten how delicious natural whole foods taste because of our obsession with salt or condiments containing salt. Nature has provided us with a gamut of tastes from sweet, found in fruits, to salty, found in vegetables like celery or kelp.
A wonderful way to enhance flavor without adding salt is to use natural herbs and spices. Herbs and spices can transform a simple dish into a sensuous eating experience of lively and refreshing flavors sure to excite your taste buds.
Below is a guide to some common herbs and spices and suggested uses to help you create flavorful meals without any added salt.
Sweet basil is bright and pungent in taste. Leaves are green in color, round and pointed.
Pesto, salads, sauces, meats, fish and soups. Pairs well with carrots, eggplant, potatoes, squash, spinach and tomatoes.
Also known as Sweet Bay or Sweet Laurel, aromatic bay leaves are often used dried for maximum flavor.
Use in soups, sauces or pickling solutions. Add to marinade solutions for meat or fish.
Tastes like ginger, with a hint of pine.
Used prominently in curry powder, but also enhances the flavor of pumpkin, squash, potatoes and pastries. Cardamom is often combined with cumin and coriander seeds.
Hot, peppery flavor.
Used frequently in Cajun, Creole, Spanish, Mexican, Szechuan, Thai and East Indian Recipes.
One of the oldest spices known, cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of evergreen trees native to Sri Lanka, southwest India and Asia. Sweet and aromatic, cinnamon is available whole or as a ground-up powder.
Versatile spice that complements a wide variety of foods and other spices. Works well with poultry, in curries and with fruit, particularly apples and pears. Add to casseroles or eggplant, squash and carrot dishes.
Coriander leaf or seed
Fresh coriander leaves, also known as cilantro, bears a strong resemblance to Italian flat-leaf parsley, but with a stronger, distinct scent. The seeds, when dried, have a fragrant flavor reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage.
Combines nicely with beets, onions, potatoes and lentils. Add to salads, salsas, soups, stews, curries and rice dishes.
Powerful peppery flavoring with slight citrus overtones. Integral spice in the cuisines of Mexico, India and the Middle East.
Complements chicken, lamb, beans, lentils, vegetables and rice dishes. Excellent in carrot or cabbage dishes.
Dill's green leaves are wispy and fern-like and have a soft, sweet taste. Both the leaves and the seeds are used to flavor food.
Combines well with fruits, vegetables, fish, egg and poultry. Should be added to the end of cooking time, since heat can destroy its delicate flavor.
Mild licorice taste.
Salads, soups, fish and vegetable dishes. Also complements rice, potatoes, tomato, egg and apple dishes.
Fragrant, pungent and hot. Can be used fresh, dried or in powder form.
Curries, stews and stir-fries. Complements poultry.
Member of the mint family. Similar to oregano but less pungent. Used in savory dishes.
Salads, fish, vegetables, meat, poultry and egg dishes.
With more than 25 varieties, tastes range from cool, sweet and slightly menthol.
Use fresh in salads, marinated vegetables, legumes or tomato based soups or stews. Also good in dips, dressings, yogurt or lamb dishes.
Seed of an apricot-like fruit native to Indonesia, with a cinnamon and peppery taste.
Can be used in either sweet or savory dishes, including pasta sauces, cheese dishes, cake or milk (or milk alternative) puddings.
Also from the mint family, similar to marjoram but stronger with an earthy, aromatic flavor.
Used in many Mediterranean dishes. Excellent in tomato based sauces and stews. Complements, chicken, fish and meat dishes.
Most common types are curly or Italian flat leaf. Mildly fresh aromatic flavor.
Soups, salads, sauces and casseroles. Use with any vegetable, potato or grain dish.
Pine-like, distinct flavor used either fresh or dried.
Marinades, vegetables, chicken and fish dishes. Complements roast meats, especially lamb and chicken.
Grayish, silver green leaves in color with and earthy aromatic taste that is both sweet and bitter.
As a flavoring for stuffing, good with vegetables, cheese and meat dishes, especially pork, game and liver.
Sweet aromatic herb with a slighter peppery flavor reminiscent of fennel, anise and licorice.
Soups, salads fish, chicken and egg dishes. Also good with raw or cooked tomato dishes. Complements, peas, potatoes, broccoli, carrot and asparagus.
Tiny leaves with a minty, tea-like flavor.
Used to make bouquet garni with parsley and bay. Add to stocks, marinades, sups and casseroles. Good with fish, vegetable and game dishes.
-- Joanne Capano is a regular contributor to NaturallySavvy.com, a Web site dedicated to educating people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com.
(c) 2010, HEALTHY SHOPPER U.S.A. INC. Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.