When you start to cook Nutritarian-style, you realize that food doesn’t need salt to be delicious. Recipes with no added salt can be bursting with great flavor. The key is learning how to season foods healthfully by using aromatic vegetables, fresh fruits, herbs and spices.
It’s not debatable—salt increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke as well as osteoporosis and stomach cancer. It’s also addictive. Over time, it deadens your taste buds so you need more and more just to taste it. And regardless of its color, exotic place of origin or funky infused flavor, salt is salt.
I have been part of the team at DrFuhrman.com for over 10 years, helping Dr. Fuhrman with recipe and new food product development and nutritional analysis. Initially, although I am a registered dietitian and a food scientist, I needed to learn new cooking skills and change my perspective about flavoring and essential ingredients. This has extended into my cooking style at home where now I automatically omit the salt from any recipe and the salt shaker collects dust in the closet. Even my family has forgotten it’s there. I knew we had made great strides when my daughter complained that the vegetables in the college cafeteria were so salty, they tasted like they had been cooked in ocean water.
Instead of automatically dumping a few teaspoons of salt into the pot, think of making a recipe as a process of adding layers of flavor. For example, start with a member of the aromatic allium family such as onions and garlic, add in herbs and spices while cooking and finish with a splash of citrus or vinegar.
Not only do these vegetables provide beneficial anticancer and antioxidant compounds, they provide wonderful flavor. I start off my soups, stews and stir-fries by water-sautéing a combination of the aromatic alliums and possibly throwing in some carrots, celery or ginger.
Water sautéing is a key technique to learn. Just heat the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water and when hot, add your choice of aromatics and cook, allowing the pan to dry out just enough for the food to start to brown a little before you add additional water. This helps to develop the flavor in your ingredients without the addition of oil.
Roasted garlic adds big flavor to dips, salad dressings and sauces. To roast garlic, separate the cloves, leaving the papery skins on and bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until soft.
Raw onions, shallots, scallions, chives or garlic are also perfect additions to salads, dressings and wraps. Try thinly sliced raw onion on your bean burger or drop a clove of raw garlic in the blender when you make your salad dressing or sauce.
Herbs come from the leaves of a plant while spices come from the roots, bark and seeds. Basil, cilantro, parsley and thyme are herbs while cumin, coriander, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves are spices. Don’t be afraid to use them generously in your cooking. Herbs are available fresh or dried and while dried herbs are convenient to have on hand, treat yourself to fresh herbs for a better, fresher flavor. The general rule of thumb is that one teaspoon of dried herbs is equal to one tablespoon of fresh.
Add some heat, even if just a little. I have discovered that a hint of spiciness from black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes is sometimes just what a dish needs. If you like it hot and spicy, dial it up with a variety of different fresh or dried chilies or chili powder. Based on my experience developing recipes here at DrFuhrman.com, there is a wide range of preferences when it comes to spicy. One person’s hot is another person’s mild!
Stock up on some no-salt seasoning blends to fall back on. They are a quick and convenient way to add flavor. Although not an herb or spice, unfortified nutritional yeast is also a good ingredient to keep on hand for a savory, cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast is different from baking or brewer’s yeast, it has been deactivated, which means it cannot be used for leavening or fermentation purposes.
For the finishing touch, pretend you are a famous chef and add a splash of freshly squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice at the end of cooking to wake up the flavor of your vegetables, soups or sauces. Acidic ingredients brighten up flavor and activate similar taste receptors as salt. They are natural flavor enhancers and a great way to finish a dish. Vinegar accomplishes the same goal and there is a wide assortment of flavored vinegars that allow you to add character to your recipe without adding salt—or oil, sugar or calories.
Learning to enjoy the real, unsalted flavor of food is a rewarding process. Your taste buds gradually regain their sensitivity and you can appreciate, perhaps for the first time, a wide assortment of different and more interesting flavors. And when you taste something that once tasted normal, it will seem incredibly salty and unappealing!
|TIP: Replace your saltshaker with a small dish of gremolata, a traditional Italian condiment. To make it, combine the zest of one organic lemon, with a quarter cup of chopped fresh parsley and three minced garlic cloves. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two.|