October 25th, 2020

Healthy cooking with herbs


By Submitted Article on May 1, 2020.

Ashley Bray

Alberta Health Services

On average, Canadians consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day – that’s 1,100 mg over the daily upper limit. Consuming too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart and kidney disease.

Cooking with herbs is one way to reduce the salt in the food you cook. Adding herbs to your food not only adds flavour, but also adds a great aroma to your home cooked dishes. Some of my favourite herbs are:

Basil: Basil comes in many varieties. Basil is often used in pasta sauces, pesto, pizzas and other Italian inspired dishes. For a unique and refreshing flavoured water, add diced strawberries, lemon slices and torn basil leaves to a pitcher of water.

Dill: Dill is a perfect springtime herb. It has a light and fresh taste. Add dill to grilled fish or chicken, or try a homemade yogurt and dill salad dressing.

Thyme: Thyme is a very versatile herb and can be used to flavour soups, stews, vegetables, meats, chicken and more.

Parsley: Parsley is a fresh-tasting herb with a slightly peppery taste. With many varieties available, choose flat leaf or Italian parsley for more flavour. Parsley is great in tabbouleh, bruschetta and makes a great garnish for many dishes.

Tips for cooking with herbs:

Add whole herbs at the beginning of cooking (bay leaves, whole rosemary) and chopped herbs at the end of cooking.

If a recipe calls for fresh herbs and you are using dried, cut the amount in half.

Store fresh herbs in a tall glass of water as you would a bouquet of flowers, and cover loosely with a plastic bag. Woodier fresh herbs can be wrapped in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. Dried herbs should be stored in an airtight container in a dark and cool place.

Growing your own herbs provides you with a constant source of delicious and fresh herbs to use in your cooking. It is typically less expensive to grow fresh herbs than purchasing them at your local grocery store. For new gardeners, growing herbs can be a less expensive way to venture into the gardening world. To get started, connect with your local gardening store to purchase seeds or seedlings (young plants). Keep in mind the following as you plant and care for your new herb garden:

Herbs can be grown inside or out. Remember that many herbs come from the Mediterranean where the climate is hot and sunny. Position your herb garden in a place where it will receive lots of sun – typically the west- or south-facing sides of your home.

Don’t over water! Herbs are accustomed to dry climates and overwatering can cause them to wilt and lose their flavour.

Picking your herbs will encourage growth. Therefore, use them often!

Gardening is not without its challenges, so if you need additional support talk to an expert gardener at your local gardening centre. Happy gardening!

For herb inspired recipes and more, visit http://www.HealthyEatingStartsHere.ca and click on “Inspiring Healthy Eating”.

Ashley Bray is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services, Nutrition Services. She can be reached by email, ashley.bray@ahs.ca.

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