Having too much salt in your diet can result in water retention, bloating, and weight gain – not to mention increase your risk for hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disorders. Yet cooking without salt can be tricky. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll end up with bland, tasteless dishes.
Here at eatyourkale.com, we believe that an important part of sticking to a diet plan is being able to create healthy meals that delight the palette. How can we accomplish this goal without salt? Below are 5 savory spices that – if you can learn to use in your cooking – you’ll wonder why you ever needed a seasoning as mundane as table salt in the first place. Although cooking with spices can take a little bit of practice to get it right, learning to cook with the right herbs and spices will not only result in healthier food – your food will be tastier as well.
1. Black Pepper
Black pepper is traditionally served alongside salt at the dinner table. However, it’s significantly healthier than its sodium chloride counterpart. Some studies have even shown that black pepper has antioxidant properties, and may even have the potential to break down fat cells.
Black pepper can be used to season meats and vegetables as they’re prepared, but this widely used spice can be added to meals after they’re ready to serve as well.
Thyme is one of the most commonly used herbs in cooking. It’s especially popular in Mediterranean, Italian, and French cuisine. There are 2 primary types of thyme used in cooking – common thyme and lemon thyme. They both have highly aromatic, slightly sweet, pungent flavors. As the name suggests, lemon thyme contains a hint of citrus flavor.
Thyme can be used fresh to roast with meats, poultry, or vegetables, or it can be used as in dried form. It goes well in stews, soups, and sauces. Thyme is often used in combination with marjoram, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, and oregano.
Allspice – as the name suggests – smells and tastes like a combination of a number of fragrant spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper, and peppercorn. However, it’s actually derived from the dried berry of the Jamaican pimento tree.
Allspice is popular in Caribbean and Latin cuisine and is often used with vegetables, soups, and even desserts. It’s also a key ingredient in classic Caribbean dishes such as jerk chicken and Jamaican beef patties.
Cilantro is a herb that comes from the leaves of the fresh cilantro plant. It has a strong, pungent flavor that is unique and difficult to compare to any other herb. Fresh cilantro looks like parsley, and like parsley, it can be used dried as well – although dried cilantro has significantly less flavor than the fresh variety. Cilantro’s distinctive flavor is a staple in many Latin, Asian, and Indian dishes. Learning to use Cilantro can give your dishes a strong, exotic flair.
Oregano is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. It has a strong, slightly spicy flavor and a pungent aroma, and is probably most well known as the “pizza” herb. While it’s known for its deliciousness in pizza sauce, it goes well with virtually any tomato dish and complements most vegetables and meats – especially lamb. Oregano is often used with seasoning partners such as onion, garlic, basil, thyme, parsley, as well as olive oil.
Improving Your Cooking Skills
One of the reasons salt is so popular in cooking is not just that it tastes good, but that it’s so easy to use. Implementing thyme, allspice, cilantro, or oregano into your cooking repertoire isn’t always quite as easy – sometimes they need to be paired with the right food, sometimes with the right seasonings. But one thing is certain – learning to replace salt in your cooking will not only to healthier meals, but tastier ones as well.
For more on cooking with herbs and spices, see our guide to Cooking Delicious, Healthy Meals With Herbs & Spices.