The best low-sodium herbs and spices

Understanding Spices

How to reduce salt in your diet without compromising on flavour

If you suffer from high blood pressure, kidney disease or heart failure, you might be wanting to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. If you think this means bland food for the rest of your life – think again! There are so many ways you can spice up your dishes and add flavour without needing to reach for the salt shaker. Here is a guide to using herbs and spices to reduce your salt intake.

How can I cut back on salt?

Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer and high blood pressure is a large contributing factor. Amongst the different ways to lower blood pressure, changing your diet can be one of the most effective. Most of our sodium intake comes from processed food, so the most effective way to cut down on salt is to prepare meals from scratch. This also makes it the perfect opportunity to experiment with the spices and herbs that have been hiding in your cupboard.

Herbs

Herbs are a fantastic addition to dishes. They add aroma, flavour, colour and have plenty of health benefits too. Using more herbs in your cooking can not only reduce the need for salt, but can also help to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other conditions. Here are some of the best low-sodium herbs:

Basil

Basil goes extremely well with tomatoes, so don’t be afraid to add some to pasta sauces, soups and other tomato based dishes. It also pairs really well with onions, garlic and olives, as well as most meats including chicken, lamb, pork and seafood.

Bay leaves

Like paprika, bay leaves give your food a woody flavour with the additional hint of eucalyptus and clove. Bay leaves are best used to support other stronger flavours like cumin or black pepper. They’re often used to elevate the taste of sauces, soups, stews, rice and roast chicken.

Parsley

Parsley can be used in just about any savoury dish. Although it’s commonly used as a garnish, there are plenty of other ways you can use the herb – tossed into a salad, blended into sauces, stirred into soups, or mixed into meat dishes. If you’re familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine, you’ll recognise the taste as it’s one of the main ingredients in dishes like tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves.

Oregano

Oregano has been shown to reduce salt cravings when added to dishes. This familiar herb is mostly known for its use in pasta sauces and pizzas, but it can also add a lovely earthy flavour to chicken, seafood, beans, marinades, stuffings and salads.

Rosemary

This fragrant herb has been used in cooking since at least 500 BC. It’s also known as a medicinal herb, and helps improves digestion, circulation and memory. Rosemary works wonders as a seasoning for potatoes, beef, poultry, fish, tomato based sauces, soups, casseroles, salads and grains.

Coriander

The floral, lemony flavour of coriander makes it a very popular addition to Asian, Latin, Indian and European cuisine. Coriander works well with tomatoes, fish, rice, soups, stews, curries, grilled meat, chutneys and sauces.

Spices

Spices are an essential ingredient for giving dishes a full, rich flavour without adding any salt. Spices also have anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties which bring a whole lot of health benefits. Here are some of the best low-sodium spices:

Cinnamon

One of the most extensively used spices, cinnamon is used to flavour a wide range of both sweet and savoury drinks, desserts and mains. Cinnamon is used in mulled cider and wine, chai tea and eggnog. For desserts, the warm and fragrant spice is used in baklava, churros, cinnamon rolls, pies, cookies and breads. You can also use cinnamon in vegetable soups, stuffed aubergines, rice, couscous, curries, chilli and stews.

Nutmeg

Like cinnamon, nutmeg is used as a ‘warmer’ in food and drink like pies, eggnog and cookies. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavour with a strong aroma and also works well in savoury dishes such as soups, curries, pasta, vegetables and sauces.

Mace

Mace is the substance that covers the nutmeg seed. It has a lighter, more subtle flavour compared to nutmeg, so it makes for a good replacement for recipes where nutmeg would be too heavy. Like nutmeg, it can also be used in desserts, but works especially well in savoury dishes like meat, stews, curries, sauces and pickles.

Cloves

One of the main ingredients of Worcestershire sauce, cloves have a warm, sweet and slightly spicy taste. These dried flower buds can be used in curries, marinades, stews, milk puddings, pies, mulled wine, cookies and stewed fruits.

Curry powder

Many of the ready-made curry powders that you buy in supermarkets are filled with sodium. One way you can avoid these is to make your own curry at home using curry powder. This is actually a spice mix that the British invented to mimic the flavours of Indian food. Common ingredients include turmeric, coriander, yellow mustard, ginger, cumin, cardamom and pepper. Alternatively, we offer a wide selection of spice mixes that are salt free saving you the time and effort of making your own. You can also use curry powder for other dishes such as sautes, soups, stews, marinades and sauces.

Ginger

As well as its many health benefits, ginger is a versatile spice which can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether it’s ground or fresh, use it in baked goods such as cookies, cakes, breads and desserts. Add it to stir frys, mix into salad dressings and add to marinades for meat. Ginger is also commonly used in dishes like noodles, rice and soups.

Chilli powder/cayenne pepper

Any dish that needs a little kick will benefit from some chilli powder or cayenne pepper. Use it to add some heat to sauces, curries, soups, beans and rice. You can also use it as a dry rub for meat and seafood.

Paprika

If you’re looking for a smokey, woody flavour, paprika is a great addition to your cooking. It goes well with most savoury foods such as meat, poultry, fish, stews, sauces, soups and vegetables. It also makes a great seasoning on top of potato wedges, or in batter for fried chicken.

Making spice blends

A lot of herb and spice blends contain unnecessary amounts of additives and salt. You can make your own blends by combining the different herbs and spices you have in your cupboard. Here are some different mixes you can make:

  • Mexican: chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano
  • Italian: basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, black pepper
  • Indian: turmeric, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, ground mustard, coriander, black pepper
  • Chili: black pepper, chili powder, cumin, dry mustard, oregano, paprika

There are plenty of ways to use your homemade spice blends. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Use them as dry rubs for meat or seafood before popping them on the grill
  • Sprinkle into vinaigrettes or salad dressings
  • Add to olive oil dipping sauces or yoghurt dips

Other tips to spicing up low-sodium dishes

  • A good way to give a richer taste to your food is to use fresh onions and garlic as opposed to the granulated versions.
  • For a zingy flavour, add a hint of citrus from freshly squeezed limes or lemons. These fruits are very versatile, and you can use them on everything from salads to soups to seafood.
  • You don’t want to entirely deprive your body of sodium, so you should try to get enough from natural sources. Whole foods like celery, beetroot, chard, spinach and carrots all contain healthy levels of sodium.

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