Salt is a magical ingredient used in almost every recipe you will find. It is a flavor enhancer which means it actually makes other ingredients taste better when added to them. This is all wonderful except that eating too much salt is bad for us.
Too much salt in the diet forces your body to hold onto more water which raises blood pressure. This can put strain on the heart, liver and kidneys and lead to inflammation in the body and problems with the vital organs and even the brain.
Reducing salt is not just about omitting it to your food when cooking. It is estimated that 80% of an average person’s salt intake comes from “hidden” sources, which means processed food. There is a huge amount of salt added to most processed foods to prolong shelf life and to enhance flavor where poor quality ingredients may have been used.
Its not just fast food to look out for either, supermarket ready meals, and processed meats typically contain large amounts of salt, and should be avoided.
The best way to reduce salt intake is to cut down on processed foods
It is much better for you, and for your bank balance to reduce consumption of processed foods by cooking at home with fresh fruit and vegetables. Here are some easy and quick recipes to cook at home that are both delicious and healthy.
Herbs are a great way to add flavor and freshness when cooking at home. The idea is that in using more delicious, fresh herbs, you need less salt to enhance the flavor. When you can cook these delicious herb filled recipes at home, who needs to eat processed foods!
Grilled chicken breast with herb pesto
In the summer time, my garden produces more herbs than I can eat! Its important to keep picking the herbs to keep the plants healthy, so I end up with pots of beautiful bunches of herbs sitting in water all over the kitchen.
One of the best ways to keep herbs tasting fresh for longer is to make them into a pesto; the oil and vinegar will preserve them for up to about ten days. I blend up whichever herbs I want to use up with a few other choice ingredients and then smother it over some grilled chicken breasts, lean and charred for delicious smokey flavor.
I use extra virgin olive oil as it is a powerful anti-inflammatory, there’s no need to add salt, this pesto is delicious as it is.
The nuts also add to the health benefits of this dish. They are high in magnesium, l-arginine and vitamin E which help to keep inflammation under control and contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
I served the chicken and pesto with a light salad of leaves and fresh tomatoes, simply dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice. It is the perfect light summer lunch, and you won’t notice the lack of salt!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 12-15 minutes
2 chicken breasts
extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 handful of basil
1 cup of mixed nuts (pine nuts, cashews, hazelnuts)
1 tbsp vinegar
1 bag salad leaves
1 tsp black pepper
- Set a griddle or heavy-bottom frying pan over a high heat. Rub the chicken with a little olive oil.
- Cook the chicken in the hot pan, turning occasionally, until both sides have a good golden char, and the breast is cooked through. This will take around twelve minutes depending on the thickness.
- While the chicken is cooking, roughly chop all the herbs and place in a food processor with the nuts, olive oil and vinegar.
- The quantities are a guide but use whatever herbs you have, and the more the merrier! Just add more oil until the pesto is a drizzling paste consistency.
- When the chicken is cooked, let it rest for five minutes.
- Meanwhile slice the tomato and place it in a bowl with the salad leaves. Dress the salad with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a grating of zest, a little olive oil, and black pepper.
- Serve the chicken and salad with a generous drizzle of pesto.
Mango, avocado and mint smoothie
I love the freshness of mint. Its such a powerful flavor-bringer, and it really brings this smoothie to life. This is a great snack, full of fresh ingredients. The fruit is just peeled and blended so none of the goodness is lost through cooking.
Avocados are well known as a super food. They are a great part of a healthy diet. Their monounsaturated fats are good for the heart and won’t raise cholesterol, and they add an unctuous creaminess to the smoothie.
The citrus fruits are full of vitamin C which is essential for our bodies to function properly. Mangoes have powerful anti-oxidant compounds which can help to prevent cancer. All fresh vegetables are full of fiber which is essential for healthy bowels, and of course, keeping inflammation under control.
This smoothie would be great post-exercise, a real nutrient boost for the body and delicious too!
Makes 2 large smoothies
Prep time: 10 minutes
1 bunch mint
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup ice
- Peel the mango, with a knife, then cut the two sides off from the stone, and shave off any more fruit that you can from around the stone.
- Cut the avocado in half around the stone, then peel, and scoop out the flesh.
- Add the avocado and mango to a food processor with mint leaves, and the orange and lime juice, and the ice.
- Blend on full power until you have a thick and smooth liquid.
- Pour into glasses and enjoy
Indian spiced salmon and dahl
I love Indian food, and happily spices like turmeric and cumin have fantastic anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient curcumin, a potent antioxidant, has been shown to have numerous health benefits and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Not only is curcumin an antioxidant, it has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic illnesses.
On top of that, these spices are earthy and delicious and go brilliantly with oily fish like salmon which are also great for keeping inflammation in check and providing you with essential omega-3 fatty acids.
It is best to gently simmer the lentils with a bay leaf and cilantro stalks, adding this flavor reduces the need to add salt. The cilantro leaves are scattered on top just before serving to add a fresh herb flavor. Other herbs like mint could also be used with Indian flavors, its best to see what you have and give it a go!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
1 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp garam masala
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp dried ginger
½ tsp turmeric
2 salmon fillets
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 bunch cilantro
- Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear.
- Place them in a saucepan with the stock, bay leaf and cilantro stalks, bring to the boil, then simmer for around 25 minutes.
- When the lentils are soft, remove the pan from the heat. They should have soaked up all the stock.
- Mix the spices together, this mix will be used for the salmon and the dahl.
- Rub the salmon with enough spice to cover it, and a little olive oil, and fry in a hot pan until both sides are golden and the flesh in the middle is just cooked.
- Add butter to a saucepan on a medium heat, and fry the onion and garlic until soft.
- Add the rest of the spice mix and fry for a further minute.
- Add the cooked lentils to the pan and mix thoroughly. It is good to let the lentils sit with a lid on for a few minutes to let the flavors meld and infuse together.
- At the last minute add a good squeeze of lemon juice to the dahl, and a squeeze over the salmon.
- Serve the salmon on top of the lentils with a sprinkle of ripped cilantro leaves on top.
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