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Season for Flavor

When you get past the idea that salt is needed to bring out the flavor of food, you'll find a new world of taste possibilities. Think fresh and intense and experiment with all the delicious ways to replace salt while adding depth and interest to your dishes. For some new tastes, try some of the ideas in “Sodium-Free Flavoring Suggestions” in the Toolkit (Part IV).

GO FRESH

• Use fresh herbs when possible. In most cases, they give more vibrant flavor than dried. For a brighter taste, add them at the last minute.

• Grind whole spices as you need them. They'll be fresher and provide the most powerful flavor impact.

• Buy only small amounts of dried herbs and the spices that you purchase preground so they won't lose their punch. The more often you rotate your supply, the more intense the flavors will be.

• Add hot chiles to your dishes for a little bite. Peppers from the produce aisle are very low in sodium and have a lot more flavor than pickled peppers, which are high in sodium.

• Buy fresh gingerroot and freeze it in peeled chunks so you'll always have some on hand for its zingy flavor. Grate gingerroot using a ginger grater, rasp grater, or flat, sheet-type grater.

• Squeeze citrus juice on foods to enhance flavor. Wonderful on fish, citrus also works well on many vegetables, such as broccoli and green beans. Try different vinegars too, especially on greens.

• Perk up flavor with citrus zest, the part of the peel without the bitter white pith. Grate the peel or use a vegetable peeler to remove wide slices, which you can cut into thin strips.

INTENSIFY

• Use dried mushrooms, tomatoes, chiles, cherries, cranberries, and currants to impart a more intense flavor than the fresh versions. If you reconstitute these foods by soaking them, use any leftover “broth” to enrich other dishes.

• Dry-roast seeds, nuts, and whole spices to bring out their full flavor.

• Reduce liquids such as wines and broths to deepen and intensify their flavors. (Avoid cooking wines, which are high in sodium.)

• Marinate meats in low-sodium mixtures for rich, layered flavor without added salt or sodium-laden sauces. Marinating also helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat, so consider using a homemade version, such as Spicy-Sweet Citrus-Cilantro Marinade instead of high-sodium commercial marinades or tenderizers.

• Refrigerate drippings from roasted meat or poultry to allow the fat to rise to the top and harden. Once you've discarded the fat, use the rich liquid to intensify the flavor of stews, sauces, and soups.

• Cook foods wrapped in aluminum foil or parchment paper to seal in delicious natural juices.

REPLACE

• Replace flavored salts, such as garlic and onion, with the comparable powders. You'll get just as much flavor but with zero sodium.

• Fill a salt or pepper shaker with a combination of crumbled dried herbs and finely ground spices to use at the table instead of salt, or buy salt-free herb blends.

• Instead of using high-sodium bottled mustard, try using dry mustard mixed with water.

• Wrap foods in lettuce or cabbage leaves instead of in high-sodium breads or flour tortillas.

• Make your own low-sodium salad dressings (see here for recipes). For the convenience of commercial bottled dressings, prepare a double batch or more, depending on how long the dressing will keep in the refrigerator.

• Control sodium by making your own versions of common sauces and favorite condiments.

SALT SUBSTITUTES If you're considering buying a salt substitute, be sure to read the labels. Many salt substitutes contain a large amount of potassium and very little sodium; most people can use them freely, but not people who have certain health conditions (kidney disease, for example) or take medications that cause the body to retain potassium. Talk with your healthcare professional about whether a salt substitute is a good option for you.

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