1. Sodium-free for cardiovascular benefits
"Why should we have sodium-free foods? Don't we need sodium to live?"
Despite popular belief, humans do not need that much sodium to live. In fact, we only require about 500 mg of sodium per day, which is equivalent to the size of a 2.5 oz pickle. The American Heart Association currently recommends a maximum of 2000 mg of sodium per day to avoid nutrition related complications. However, most Americans receive well over this amount, which can place them at increased risks for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and cardiovascular diseases. High sodium foods can be found in many places such as fast food and sit-down restaurants, foods with a long shelf life, pickled foods, TV dinners, and processed foods, just to name a few. However, I believe one of the largest contributors to sodium in our diets comes from the salt shaker at our dinner table. In fact, a mere 1 tsp of salt = 2300 mg of sodium! And think about how many teaspoons of salt that you add to your foods each day...
2. Adds flavor to your foods
"Salt is my flavor. My food will taste bland without it!"
Herbs add TONS of flavors to food, whether sweet, spicy, earthy, oniony, or minty, they can add an explosion of flavor to our plates. Additionally, they create various aromas which can also enhance our taste buds.
Challenge: I want to challenge you this month to either hide or throw away your salt shaker, and to flavor only with sodium-free herbs and seasonings. The truth is that even though we may feel like we need added salt, we really do not. It is time to give our tastebuds a "makeover" so that they can be treated to increased flavors, while also minimizing cardiovascular risks.
Basil: Sweet herb that is part of the ocimum species that originated in Asia about 3,000 years ago.
- Pairs well with cheeses, tomatoes, white beans, eggplant, vegetables, and various pastas
- Health Benefits: It is a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. Research also shows anti-inflammatory effects such as decreasing pain with arthritis and calming skin rashes, and antioxidant properties to increase the immune system. Some sources also say that basil can act as an antimicrobial agent as well!
- Both are very similar in taste, but the key difference is that majoram cannot withstand long cooking periods, while oregano can. Therefore, if you are using majoram, wait until the food is almost done cooking before you add it.
- Both pair well with Italian and Greek foods, roasted vegetables, sweet peppers, cheeses, chicken, lamb, and shellfish
- Health Benefits: Research has shown reduced GI upset, as well as anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties.
- Pairs well with cream cheese, sautéed vegetables, potatoes, poultry, veal, lamb, fish, tomatoes, focaccia bread, olive oil bases, and eggs.
- Health Benefits: One of its ingredients, carnosic acid, has shown antioxidant properties in several research studies that could protect the brain from free radicals, ultimately reducing strokes, neurological damages, and neurodegenerative changes such as Alzheimer's.
- Pairs well with most meats like turkey, pork, and duck, as well as onions, or stuffing.
- Health Benefits: Research has shown anti-inflammatory effects such as reduced GI upset, benefits with asthma, decreased hot flashes in menopausal women, and increased memory, which could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
- Can withstand long periods of cooking at high temperatures
- Pairs well with soups, stews, casseroles, stuffings, onions, root vegetables, and lamb, pork, rabbit meats.
- Health Benefits: Research has shown antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects to ward off infections such as bronchitis and coughs.
- Pairs well with stuffings, casseroles, slow-cooked meats, legumes, root vegetables, fish, soups, and potatoes
- Health Benefits: No known health benefits at this time.
Norman, J. (2013). Herbs & Spices: An Illustrated Guide to Over 120 Herbs & Spices. New York: Sterling Publishing.
University of Michigan Health System. (2014). Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://www.uofmhealth.org/
The World's Healthiest Foods. (2014). Retrieved December 11, 2014, from http://www.whfoods.com/index.php