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Turn up the flavor without turning up the salt content

There are delicious and healthier ways beyond salt to boost your food’s flavor.

Dried spices, like cumin and cinnamon, bring bold flavor to dishes, while dried and fresh herbs, like basil and thyme, season with subtlety.
Dried spices, like cumin and cinnamon, bring bold flavor to dishes, while dried and fresh herbs, like basil and thyme, season with subtlety.
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We know we should be eating less salt. Most of us consume far more than recommended. We know to skip the salt shaker at the table and to check food labels. While it is essential to the body — the sodium in salt works with potassium to regulate fluids — too much can raise blood pressure, putting the heart at risk. Read on to learn ways to cut back the salt without sacrificing flavor.

Season it up

Dig into spices to replace salt. Dried spices, like cumin and cinnamon, bring bold flavor to dishes, while dried and fresh herbs, like basil and thyme, season with subtlety. Experiment with mixed herb and spice blends to jazz up your meals. Choose fresh or powdered onion, garlic, and chili peppers, mustards, vinegars, and citrus (like lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit) juice, peel, or zest.

Cooking counts

Use cooking methods to heighten flavor. Roasting vegetables in the oven or on the grill brings out their natural sweetness and deepens the flavor of animal and plant proteins, like fish and tofu. A quick sear or sauté on the stove top enhances flavor with minimal cook time. Cook with a light coating of olive oil and finish with a splash of vinegar or citrus and a garnish of fresh herbs, dried fruits, chopped nuts or citrus zest.

Use good ingredients

High quality ingredients pack so much flavor, they hardly need seasoning. Choose the best you can find: in-season fruits and vegetables, flavorful cuts of animal proteins, the freshest fish and seafood, and high-quality healthy fats (extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil).

Give these tips a try — see how quickly your palate prefers less salt, (and broadens your meal planning repertoire).

Global Goodness

Sample seasonings from around the world for flavor so you won’t miss the salt.

  • Herbs de Provence (France): savory, rosemary, marjoram, thyme.
  • Curry powder (India): turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, pepper.
  • Chinese five spice (China): star anise, Szechuan peppers, cloves, fennel, cinnamon.
  • Jerk spice (Caribbean): red and black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, thyme.
  • Italian blend (Italy): basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, thyme, red chili flakes, garlic powder.

Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition.