Spices and Culinary Herbs

Cooking from scratch is the best strategy for reducing your salt intake.

People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure. There are several factors contributing to high blood pressure, including too high an intake of sodium. A portion of our sodium intake comes from salt added while cooking or at the table, but 75% comes from processed foods.

Using spices and culinary herbs helps reduce the consumption of sodium while enhancing the flavour of food. All you have to do is replace the salt in cooking or at the table with a few spices or fines herbes, and voilà!

Need some inspiration? Here are some examples of combinations to get you started.

Fines herbes

Basil: tomatoes, fish, poultry, salads, fruit
Cilantro: Asian dishes, fish, poultry, beans and lentils
Bay leaf: stews with vegetables, grains and meat
Mint: salads, lamb, fruit, desserts
Thyme: potatoes, tomatoes, goat cheese, meat

Spices

Cinnamon: muffins, beef in a sauce, curry dishes
Coriander seeds: mushrooms, cauliflower, seasoned rice
Cumin: mashed potatoes, vegetable couscous, grilled fish, eggplant
Fennel seeds: bread rolls, pasta sauces
Mustard seeds: marinades, curry dishes, vinaigrettes (salad dressings)

An acquired taste

Be patient! If you decide to replace the salt in your recipes with spices and culinary herbs, you should know that it can take from 8 to 12 weeks to get used to these new flavours. You can start by gradually cutting back on the salt and replacing only a portion of it with spices and herbs.

Fresh or dried?

What if your recipe calls for fresh herbs but you only have dried herbs on hand? No problem. Refer to the box below for conversion equivalencies:

15 mL (1 tablespoon) of fresh herbs = 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of dried herbs = 1 to 2 mL (environ 1/2 teaspoon) of powdered, dried herbs

Always in season

Fresh herbs are available all year long. You can find them at the supermarket and at public markets. Why not grow some in your garden, in a pot on your balcony, or even indoors? If you grow more than you need, you can dry, freeze or turn the excess into pesto. Some grocery stores sell puréed fines herbes in tubes or frozen cubes.

Flavour enhancers

Spices and culinary herbs are not the only way to enhance the flavour of your dishes. Try ginger, chili peppers, Tabasco or Sriracha sauce for a spicy hot flavour, or add sautéed chopped garlic or onion when you begin cooking a dish. To replace salt, you can also use balsamic vinegar, lemon and lime (juice and zest) as a base for marinades or for sprinkling on your vegetables.

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Dietitian Team

November 2012 (updated on July 2018)

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