Herbs and spices give the knockout punch to salt

Have you ever heard the old saying 'variety is the spice of life'?  When it comes to cooking healthy and nutritious food, this couldn't be truer.


Adding herbs and spices to meals not only adds colour, flavour and variety but it can be a useful replacement for fat, sugar and salt in your meals.  Plus, herbs provide powerful antioxidants while adding virtually no kilojoules to your plate.


Did you know that herbs and spices contain more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables? Just half a teaspoon of cloves contain more antioxidants than half a cup of blueberries!


The average Australian consumes about 9-10 grams of salt every day, well above the daily recommendation of less than 2.3 grams per day.  Reducing your salt intake will help to reduce your blood pressure and thus reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.


Cutting salt may sound like an "easier said than done" task.  Salt is virtually impossible to escape from.  It's found in almost every food we eat with a staggering 75 per cent of our salt intake coming from processed foods.


Diabetes Queensland dietitian Alison Bennett said because salt is in so much of the food we eat, it is easy to become accustomed to the taste.


"If you were to gradually reduce your salt intake, your taste buds would get used to it, this may take two to three weeks," she said.


"The good news is that reducing salt in your diet doesn't mean your food has to be bland and tasteless.  Herbs and spices make a perfect salt substitute and can give any meal a big flavour hit!"


Herbs and spices defined:

  • Herbs are the leaves of low growing shrubs and can be used fresh or dried.  Common examples include sage, parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill, and thyme.  Many herbs can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
  • Spices come from the bark, root, buds, seeds, berry or fruit of tropical plants and trees.  Examples include cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, paprika, garlic, mustard and many more.
  • Seasoning blends are a mixture of dried herbs and spices.


Tips to reduce salt:

  • Remove the salt shaker from the dining table (or from the house).
  • Use a mix of herbs and spices to add to the complexity of flavour of your foods.
  • Frozen, dried or fresh herbs will add and enhance flavour to any meal.
  • Spice things up - black pepper, curry powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chilli powder can give your meals a real kick.  
  • Check the labels of ready mixed herbs and spices in the supermarket e.g. Cajun mix, as these contain salt.
  • Steam vegetables lightly to retain the colour and flavour and add a dash of lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Make your own salad dressing based on balsamic, cider or rice vinegars and plenty of herbs.
  • Use lemongrass, fresh coriander and a small amount of sesame oil to flavour stir fries instead of soy sauce.
  • Marinate fish or meat prior to cooking. A simple mix of garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and mixed spices makes a great marinade.
  • Make your own gravy, or go for a red wine sauce instead.
  • Use an infused olive oil, e.g. garlic, basil, chilli or rosemary, to sauté vegetables or as part of a salad dressing.