Herbs and Spices Are Key to Reducing Your Sodium Intake

Most Americans eat too much sodium, and, as a result, more people are being diagnosed with high blood pressure. The average intake of sodium is 3,400 milligrams per day – more than double the 1,500 milligrams that the American Heart Association recommends!

By following a heart-healthy, low-sodium diet you can decrease your chance of developing high blood pressure and other harmful effects.

But reducing salt doesn't have to mean reducing flavor! Herbs and spices are great salt substitutes and add intense flavor to all kinds of dishes. Here are five common herbs and spices and quick ways to incorporate them into your meals.

Basil

Its highly fragrant leaves are used in a variety of foods, but basil is most commonly used as the main ingredient in pesto. Whenever you can, try to use fresh basil over the dried form for more intense flavor.

  • Blend with garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts for a quick pesto.
  • Layer fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves for a colorful salad. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
  • Freeze in an ice cube tray covered in water to use in soups later on.

Oregano

The warm, aromatic flavor of oregano makes it a perfect addition to Mediterranean and Mexican dishes.

  • Garnish your pizza with fresh oregano.
  • Sautee with mushrooms and onions.
  • Sprinkle chopped fresh oregano onto homemade garlic bread.

Rosemary

The wonderful fragrance and flavor of rosemary goes a long way to flavor chicken, lamb, pork and fish dishes, as well as soups and sauces. Before using rosemary, give it a quick rinse under cool water and pat dry. Most recipes call for rosemary leaves, which can easily be removed from the stem. You can also add whole sprigs to season roasts and soups.

  • Season chicken and lamb dishes.
  • Add to your favorite soups or stews.
  • Puree rosemary with olive oil for a dipping sauce for bread.

Turmeric

Turmeric has a peppery, warm flavor similar to orange and ginger. It’s used most commonly in curry dishes and to color mustard.

  • Add to egg salad to bring out the yellow color.
  • Sprinkle on steamed green beans or cauliflower.
  • Use ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder in your smoothies to increase the antioxidant power.

Ginger

This spicy, aromatic spice adds great flavor to Asian stir fries and veggie dishes. You can buy fresh ginger in the produce section of most markets.

  • Add to lemonade for spicy kick.
  • Mince fresh ginger and add to sautéed veggies or salads.
  • Grate fresh ginger into hot water and a splash of lemon for an invigorating hot drink.

The more herbs and spices you add, the less salt you will need for flavor. By lowering your sodium intake, you can decrease your chance of developing high blood pressure and other harmful effects. Take care of your heart! 

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Emily Hein
Emily Hein, RD, LD, is a Dallas-based dietitian, blogger and whole foods enthusiast. She has a strong passion for cooking and hot yoga, and believes that moderation and enjoyable physical activity are the keys to a healthy life. Read her blog, Zen & Spice, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Healthy Aperture.