We’ve always thought that a good blood pressure reading was 120/80. But the newest guidelines for blood pressure classify optimal blood pressure readings as lower than 120/80. The guidelines also say that 120/80 to 140/90 is pre-hypertensive. The American Heart Association is trying to get the attention of the American public to live a healthier life style which includes losing weight if necessary, getting regular physical exercise, consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks a day, and avoiding a salty diet, all factors that increase blood pressure, the guidelines say.
One way to decrease diet sodium (salt is forty percent sodium) is to use herbs in cooking instead of salt. Growing and using herbs is a pleasurable way to add flavor to foods, while cutting down on sodium. If you don’t plant them yourself, you can buy fresh herbs at the supermarket or farmer’s market. They can be dried or frozen.
Some of the most popular herbs are:
CHIVES: Mild onion flavor, use as accent for salads, stir-fry, omelets, and decorative topping for soups.
CILANTRO: Pungent leaves of the coriander plant in the parsley family, used mostly in Asian, Latin American and Southwestern cooking. Use in salsa, curry, taco sauce, and Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Cilantro grows easily, a must for guacamole’. I have used the seeds (coriander) as a substitute, with good results.
DILL: Also from the parsley family, has a strong, aromatic taste; its leaves are used for flavoring pickles and sauces, and make a wonderful addition to fish, potatoes, vegetable dips and salads.
FENNEL: An aromatic plant of European origin, the seeds and feathery leaves of which have a light anise seed flavor. Use bulb or leaves with baked poultry or meat. The dried seeds, used whole or crushed, add a great flavor to pizza, especially vegetarian.
ITALIAN PARSLEY: AIso called flat-leafed parsley. I use this in cooking instead of curly parsley, which is better for garnishing. The wonderful flavor of this herb adds zest to soups, stews and pasta sauces. I add it to almost everything I cook. Be careful—this herb looks like cilantro but is very different. A must for Italian pasta sauce.
MARJORAM: From the mint family, wild variety is called oregano; add to poultry, stuffings, egg dishes, vegetables (good with broccoli). I call it mild oregano, and actually like it better.
MINT: Usually spearmint or peppermint flavor, use in summer drinks, sweet peas, or as an accent for new potatoes, and is excellent with chicken; mint is very hearty and spreads widely like a weed, returning yearly. I have an awesome recipe for chicken cacciatore in wine sauce that uses mint. I will post it soon.
OREGANO: a type of marjoram, used widely in Italian dishes, a must for pizza. This is one herb that I like better dried than fresh, as the taste is more pronounced. Try it on scrambled eggs as a garnish.
ROSEMARY: An evergreen shrub in the western United States, has aromatic gray-green needle-shaped leaves yielding a volatile oil. Use with chicken, marinades, baked meats and fish. A must for chicken cacciatore’. Rosemary is very potent herb, so be careful.
SAGE: The leaves, which contain a pungent oil, are used in stuffing, meats, poultry, lamb, veal and sausage. Grows easily and is very hearty.
SORREL: Has a tart taste, so helps replace salt. I use it in soups for this reason.
SWEET BASIL: Has a sweet, subtle flavor, used in tomato dishes, pesto, vegetable soups, and is a must in Italian sauces from certain sections in Italy.
THYME: Compliments vegetables, soups, breads, and meats. Use sparingly. Very good in tomato sauces.
Before adding salt to your cooking, try some of these herbs first. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much taste they add, not to mention the antioxidants they contain. But keep in mind that some herbs have strong flavors, so use lightly. If you add too much, add a little parsley to tone down the flavor. When using fresh herbs, rinse first in cool water, and dry thoroughly before chopping.