Growing up in Chicago, I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house. I have very fond memories of tasting fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden during the warmer months of the year and the cantaloupe and honeydew melons she bought from the grocery store during the year’s colder months.
While these memories are vivid and sharp, what’s even more memorable about my grandma is the amount of table salt (sodium chloride) she regularly added to these otherwise nutritious plant-based foods.
In fact, the first time I watched her add salt to a bowl of sliced melon, my stomach literally began to churn. From fruits and veggies to beans and meats, salt was definitely her go-to food seasoning. I’m sure some of you can relate. Sadly, my grandmother died prematurely at the tender age of 59 from complications related to heart disease.
What I know now that I didn’t know then is that her high-sodium diet was most likely a primary culprit in her untimely death.
The problem is that a high intake of salt can drive the progression of a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, hypertension, and kidney disease. Still, a large majority of folks continue to use it religiously, as if sodium isn’t already housed in most of the animal-based foods, breads and other processed foods eaten every day.
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times and know how important it is to limit the amount of salt in your diet. Believe it or not, you can substantially reduce your risk of disease by simply putting down the saltshaker and using herbs, spices, and natural seasoning blends to add flavor to your favorite foods.
Garlic for example is an incredibly savory spice that can naturally enhance the taste of virtually any food, especially meats, seafood, poultry, breads and pasta.
In addition to it’s flavor-enhancing potential, garlic has powerful disease-fighting effects, as it’s been shown to effectively normalize blood cholesterol levels in ways that protect against heart disease. Garlic intake has also been associated with reductions in cancer risk and is known to reduce high blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.
I can personally attest to the latter, as my father has effectively lowered his high blood pressure by simply eating garlic by the bulb on a day-to-day basis.
Fresh citrus fruits are another sodium-free way to boost the taste of your favorite recipes and they are incredibly nutritious.
Citrus fruits are naturally rich in vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant that is crucial for proper functioning of the body’s immune system. They also house large amounts of flavonoid antioxidants known to reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce tumor growth among people with cancer.
While freshly squeezed citrus fruits are great for flavor, most of their nutrients can be found in the peels. To reap the full nutritional benefits of citrus fruits, simply grate the peels and use them to provide zest to your vegetable side dishes, casseroles, and salads.
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