Salt stands alongside sugar as the cause of all our dietary evils at the moment, having taken the place of saturated fat. There’s no doubt that there are risks from having too much salt or too much of anything for that matter. But for many people, it is a crucial part of their meals. Personally, I admit I don’t salt most of my meals so it isn’t a big worry however my husband uses enough for the two of us. Now we are being urged to consider adding herbs and spices to reduce salt intake – so how does this work?
Spicing up a meal
Now let’s start this chat by saying that herbs and spices don’t replace salt because they don’t taste the same as it does. However, there are ways to use them that they can add that garnishing to a meal that you can do rather than using salt and after a bit of time, your taste buds will come to love the change.
If you want to add a little bit of a kick to something that’s a touch bland, then spices are the way to go. In particular, cumin, paprika, cayenne and black pepper are great for adding their own flavour to sometimes. Even herbs such as oregano and trusty favourites such as garlic or onion powder can bring something to the meal and save on the salt. Ginger is a powerful flavour and cinnamon is popular in many cuisines for its ability to add to a dish. You can also pick up some great spice blends such as garam masala to add an authentic Indian hint.
Try using a rub or marinade with herbs or spices to meat or poultry to alter its taste and avoid the need for salt. Alternatively, use a little honey, brown sugar or citrus juices to make food a little sweeter and therefore convince your taste buds that salt wouldn’t work.
Benefits of adding herbs and spices
While the lack of salt is a good thing, there are other benefits to using herbs and spices in its place other than a reduction in sodium intake. In fact, different herbs have different benefits so you can judge which you use by the good they can do as well as their taste.
For example, spices such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties along with herbs such as marjoram, thyme, sage and rosemary. Inflammation has an impact on other conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and even depression.
What herb or spice with what meal?
While there are no hard and fast rules about what dish works best with what herb or spice, there are some good guidelines to go with, based on the flavours they bring. And adding herbs and spices can even alter the taste of a normal dish to create something a little different. For example, try:
- Basil – tomatoes and tomato sauces, pasta dishes
- Bay leaves – soups, casseroles and pates
- Cinnamon or nutmeg – add to soups, squash or carrots as well as in breads
- Curry powder or cumin – great with tomatoes, fish and corn
- Cloves – fruit or beet
- Dill – potatoes, fish, tomatoes and green beans
- Marjoram – soups, summer squash, peas
- Oregano – tomatoes and tomato sauces, pizzas, chicken, lamb and green beads
- Rosemary – lamb also chicken and potatoes
- Sage – beef, pork, game and potatoes
- Thyme – fish, chicken
If you are roasting vegetables such as peppers, parsnips or squash, then use a little olive oil rather than salt and water. You can also add some herbs to give them a different flavour to usual. Alternatively, try black pepper in place of salt and this also works well with eggs and pasta dishes.