Enhancing Flavor Without the Salt

February was National Heart Health Month but just because it’s March doesn’t mean it’s still not a great time to reflect on our dietary choices that may affect our heart health. March is National Nutrition Month after all. Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer worldwide. High blood pressure is considered the “silent killer” because most individuals do not show symptoms or feel any differently. However, one-third of Americans either have high blood pressure or 90% are expected to develop it over their lifetimes.

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Excessive sodium intake is one of the main contributors to high blood pressure. Foods that are generally high in salt are pre-packaged or processed foods, salty snacks, canned soups, lunch meat, and frozen dinners.

So how much is too much sodium intake? The American Heart Association recommends an ideal sodium intake as 1500 milligrams per day with a limit of 2,300 mg per day (~1 teaspoon). Let’s talk about some ways to flavor foods without using too much salt.

Top 3 Tips:

  1. Increase acidity by using different vinegars or use bold herbs, roots, and seasonings. Instead of adding more salt, first start by adding acidity or tartness.IMG_7180.JPG
    • Vinegars: apple cider, balsamic, wine (red, white, and sherry), rice wine, malt, etc.
      • Balsamic and wine vinegars often used in Mediterranean and Israeli dishes
      • Malt vinegar is often used in fish and chip dishes in Canada and the United Kingdom
      • Rice wine vinegar is generally used in Asian-based cuisines or salad dressings
    • Lemon juice: this citrus pairs well with Italian dishes, such as shrimp scampi, vinaigrettes, grain-based salads, or vegetables, such as carrots, asparagus, or broccoli.
    • Lime juice: lime juice really elevates the flavor of Mexican dishes. Add to your guacamole, tacos, or top your margarita with a slice 😉 IMG_7192.JPG
    • Ginger, turmeric, horseradish
      • Ginger: a sweet, yet spicy bite that is commonly used in Asian cuisine, but can also be pickled for depth of flavor or paired with fresh fruit.
      • Turmeric: a little goes a long way with this earthy root that provides a bitter touch to Indian or Thai dishes. This root can also be used as a natural food coloring (hint, hint: Easter is coming!). For both ginger and turmeric, peel with a vegetable peeler or use a spoon to easily peel back the skin.IMG_7159.JPG
      • Horseradish: this root vegetable can be bought fresh or pre-prepared in a jar. Trying mixing with Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream to create a delicious sauce to pair with a juicy steak.
    • Nutritional yeast as a healthy cheese substitute: this interesting little powder is jam-packed with B-vitamins, protein, fiber, and folate.
    • Fresh, dried, or canned peppers (poblano, chipotle, chili, etc.) to really add a kick!
  1. Marinate and infuse dishes with pureed fruits/vegetables.
    1. Marinate your proteins (fish, chicken, pork, beef, tofu, etc.) to avoid adding extra salt or seasoning after cooking.
    2. Infuse savory sauces with pureed butternut squash or cauliflower instead of extra salt or chicken broth for flavor dimension.
  2. Create sauces to top dishes with heart-healthy fats.
    1. Salads or vegetable sides:
      1. Avocado Crema using Greek yogurt (I love to pair this with sweet potato fries!)
      2. Chipotle Cashew Aioli
    2. Meats or Starches: Chimichurri (also one of my favorite sauces for huevos rancheros)
    3. Anything: Basil Walnut Pesto

**Be cautious with using a “Salt Replacement” for flavor enhancement if you take diuretics or have heart and/or kidney problems.

 

RECIPES

 

Avocado Crema

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Ingredients:

  • 2 avocados, pitted
  • ½ cup, plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened soy milk (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place the avocado, yogurt, and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Pulse until evenly combined.
  2. Add a tablespoon of soy milk until desired consistency achieved.
  3. Fold in the cilantro or top as a garnish.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1-2 days in an air-tight container.

 

5-Ingredient Chipotle Cashew Aioli

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Recipe by: The Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water (or unsweetened plain almond milk for creamier sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar (or sub organic cane sugar or stevia to taste)
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 1 tsp adobo sauce (more or less to taste)
  • optional: 1-2 Tbsp avocado, grape seed, canola or other neutral oil (for creaminess)
  • optional: pinch smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Add raw cashews to a mixing bowl (or a high-speed blender) and cover with boiling hot water. Let rest for 1 hour (uncovered). Then drain thoroughly.
  2. Add soaked, drained cashews to a high-speed blender with 1/2 cup water (or almond milk), lemon juice, sea salt, maple syrup, pepper + adobo sauce.
  3. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, adding more water or almond milk as needed to encourage blending. Scrape down sides as needed.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt to taste, lemon for acidity, maple syrup for sweetness, or adobo sauce for heat. I added more salt and another 2 chipotle peppers. Adding a little oil is optional and adds extra creaminess. Smoked paprika is also optional and adds a sweet smokiness to the sauce.
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

 

Jalapeno Lime Chimichurri

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Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup (or a small bunch) fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
  2. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.

 

Basil Walnut Pesto

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Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon
  • dash of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Add the walnuts to medium-size frying pan. Toast the walnuts evenly over medium heat until lightly browned (~3-4 minutes).
  2. Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  3. Refrigerate in a mason jar or an air-tight container for 5-7 days.

 

 

References:

https://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium_and_your_health

https://minimalistbaker.com/5-ingredient-chipotle-aioli/