Emily Rubin, RD, a Clinical Dietitian in the Jefferson Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, shares how to enhance your meals by incorporating more herbs and less salt.
Did you know that consuming just one teaspoon of salt (2,325 mg sodium) per day exceeds the daily-recommended amount of sodium? That doesn’t account for any other daily foods that contain sodium such as packaged foods or restaurant meals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American consumes an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day. This is about 30 percent more than what both the American Heart Association and the Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines recommend of fewer than 2,300 mg per day.
Some people add salt to their food before even tasting it. They may not realize the health risks associated with consuming a diet high in sodium, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease. Now is the time to make a change – August 29th is National More Herbs, Less Salt Day – and put away that salt shaker!
Instead of using salt, season your meals with herbs. Substituting herbs for salt can not only increase the flavor but also provide health benefits. Turmeric (curcumin) and Rosemary (rosmarinic acid) may provide an anti-inflammatory benefit and fresh ginger has been known to treat nausea. Throughout history, the main use of garlic (allicin) was for its medicinal properties – benefiting heart health and even the common cold.
But let’s not forget the smell, taste, and sight of herbs. Herbs create an appetizing meal that may spark a memory about a certain dish. Maybe it is the smell of garlic on a Sunday as you are simmering meatballs in tomato sauce or the aroma and appearance of rosemary, garlic, thyme, and onion on a fresh Turkey during the holiday season.
While fresh herbs may appear best, they are not always available, they have a short shelf life, and need to be stored carefully. Dried herbs provide the same great benefits. Fresh herbs are best when used to finish a dish, and should be added at the end of cooking. Some of the best fresh herbs are basil, dill weed, chives, cilantro, mint, parsley, and tarragon. Use dried herbs earlier in the cooking process, so that their flavor has enough time to infuse the whole dish. The best dried herbs are bay leaves, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme.
Quick Herb Guide
Basil – Sweet and Asian
Taste: sweet, pungent, anise flavor
Use: tomatoes, meat or seafood, soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Taste: earthy, slightly bitter
Use: Indian and Moroccan cuisine, poultry, lamb, curries, stews, rice dishes
Parsley- Flat-leaf or Italian parsley
Use: grilled meat, poultry, soups, omelets, mashed potatoes salads, sauces, salads. Sprinkle over dishes at the end of cooking. Curly parsley is used as a garnish.
Taste: bitter, pungent
Use: tomato sauces, vinegar, omelets, quiche, bread, marinated vegetables, beef, poultry, black beans and pizza. Dried oregano is easier to find than fresh. Use half as much dried oregano as fresh.
Taste: subtle, dry aroma, slightly minty
Use: American and European cuisine, meat, poultry, fish, vegetable.
Taste: woody herb, pungent flavor
Use: soups, meats, stews or sauces. Add rosemary sparingly.
Use: most popular spice – Latin and Asian cooking. Sweet stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, added after a dish is cooked. The roots are used to make Thai curry pastes.
Use: great as a garnish. Add at the very end of cooking to maximize color and flavor.
Italian seasoning blend – Perfect blend and kitchen staple
Taste: a mix of garlic, onion, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and marjoram.
Use: pizza, pasta dishes, hearty meat stews, broth-based soups, marinades
Seasoning with herbs can be intimidating in the beginning, but with practice and understanding the unique flavors, you will know what herbs to flavor up any meal. The idea of using salt will be history.
HERB ROASTED CARROTS & ZUCCHINI RECIPE
* 2 medium-sized zucchini thinly sliced
* 2 medium sized carrots thinly sliced
* 1 Tablespoon olive oil
* 1 teaspoon dried Rosemary
* 1-2 teaspoons Fresh ground pepper
* 2 teaspoons Thyme
* 2 teaspoons Minced Onion
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat veggies with olive oil and toss with seasoning. Place on baking sheet and cook until softened or desired tenderness is reached. About 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Yields: 3-4 servings