Teach Me

Fresh Herbs: A Healthy Alternative

Whenever I am home and feeling a little down or stressed this time of year, I head for the one place I know can make me feel better in an instant: The designated corner of my back deck that holds my pots filled with fresh herbs.

OK, that’s probably not the spot others might think to visit for stress relief, but it definitely works for me.

All I have to do is run my hand through the soft leaves to release the most amazing and diverse scents. It’s my own form of aromatherapy. I also can just look at my herbs and feel better. They display so beautifully.

If that isn’t enough, the herbs taste delicious and are the perfect alternative to high sodium seasonings or just plain salt in foods I enjoy.

That’s important because I – like so many others – need to watch how much sodium I’m consuming.

As this article in the Banner Health Library explains, too much sodium can be a contributor to high blood pressure, and those of us who suffer from hypertension need to monitor our sodium intake to help keep BP numbers within normal range.

I admit that breaking away from salt on and in food can be tough. As a kid I had a habit of salting everything from corn-on-the-cob to watermelon slices. Thankfully, I learned to savor the natural flavors of those foods without the added salt, and have changed my habits. But I still need to be wary of hidden sodium in meals when I eat out and in ingredients I use at home.

The American Heart Association shares a number of sources for sodium in our diets – many may surprise you – as well as delicious alternatives to salt for flavoring. No surprise is that fresh herbs are included in that list of options.

So, rather than going for that salt shaker when I think something tastes a little bland, I’m now experimenting more with fresh herbs on poultry, fish and pasta, as well as in salads and veggie dishes. It really does make a difference when you add rosemary and thyme to a chicken or turkey breast baking in the oven. Want to jazz up some homemade salsa? Add cilantro.

The Heart Association offers an array of information about individual herbs and a number of recipes and cooking tips.

I look forward to trying this herbed veggie skillet that features basil, one of my favorites.

I’ll still have times when monitoring sodium will be especially tough. But knowing that alternatives to salt, especially herbs, are handy and delicious will make the sodium challenge easier. And, as a bonus, after a tough day I know can head out to the deck, grab a sprig of rosemary or basil, and inhale. It’s just like being at the spa.


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