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Enhancing Flavor Without the Salt

February was National Heart Health Month but just because it’s March doesn’t mean it’s still not a great time to reflect on our dietary choices that may affect our heart health. March is National Nutrition Month after all.¬†Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer worldwide. High blood pressure is considered the “silent killer” because most individuals do not show symptoms or feel any differently. However, one-third of Americans either have high blood pressure or 90% are expected to develop it over their lifetimes.


Excessive sodium intake is one of the main contributors to high blood pressure. Foods that are generally high in salt are pre-packaged or processed foods, salty snacks, canned soups, lunch meat, and frozen dinners.

So how much is too much sodium intake? The American Heart Association recommends an ideal sodium intake as 1500 milligrams per day with a limit of 2,300 mg per day (~1 teaspoon). Let’s talk about some ways to flavor foods without using too much salt.

Top 3 Tips:

  1. Increase acidity by using different vinegars or use bold herbs, roots, and seasonings. Instead of adding more salt, first start by adding acidity or tartness.IMG_7180.JPG
    • Vinegars: apple cider, balsamic, wine (red, white, and sherry), rice wine, malt, etc.
      • Balsamic and wine vinegars often used in Mediterranean and Israeli dishes
      • Malt vinegar is often used in fish and chip dishes in Canada and the United Kingdom
      • Rice wine vinegar is generally used in Asian-based cuisines or salad dressings
    • Lemon juice: this citrus pairs well with Italian dishes, such as shrimp scampi, vinaigrettes, grain-based salads, or vegetables, such as carrots, asparagus, or broccoli.
    • Lime juice: lime juice really elevates the flavor of Mexican dishes. Add to your guacamole, tacos, or top your margarita with a slice ūüėȬ†IMG_7192.JPG
    • Ginger, turmeric, horseradish
      • Ginger: a sweet, yet spicy bite that is commonly used in Asian cuisine, but can also be pickled for depth of flavor or paired with fresh fruit.
      • Turmeric: a little goes a long way with this earthy root that provides a bitter touch to Indian or Thai dishes. This root can also be used as a natural food coloring (hint, hint: Easter is coming!). For both ginger and turmeric, peel with a vegetable peeler or use a spoon to easily peel back the skin.IMG_7159.JPG
      • Horseradish: this root vegetable can be bought fresh or pre-prepared in a jar. Trying mixing with Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream to create a delicious sauce to pair with a juicy steak.
    • Nutritional yeast as a healthy cheese substitute: this interesting little powder is jam-packed with B-vitamins, protein, fiber, and folate.
    • Fresh, dried, or canned peppers (poblano, chipotle, chili, etc.) to really add a kick!
  1. Marinate and infuse dishes with pureed fruits/vegetables.
    1. Marinate your proteins (fish, chicken, pork, beef, tofu, etc.) to avoid adding extra salt or seasoning after cooking.
    2. Infuse savory sauces with pureed butternut squash or cauliflower instead of extra salt or chicken broth for flavor dimension.
  2. Create sauces to top dishes with heart-healthy fats.
    1. Salads or vegetable sides:
      1. Avocado Crema using Greek yogurt (I love to pair this with sweet potato fries!)
      2. Chipotle Cashew Aioli
    2. Meats or Starches: Chimichurri (also one of my favorite sauces for huevos rancheros)
    3. Anything: Basil Walnut Pesto

**Be cautious with using a “Salt Replacement” for flavor enhancement if you take diuretics or have heart and/or kidney problems.




Avocado Crema

Avocado Crema.jpg


  • 2 avocados, pitted
  • ¬Ĺ cup, plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened soy milk (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Place the avocado, yogurt, and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Pulse until evenly combined.
  2. Add a tablespoon of soy milk until desired consistency achieved.
  3. Fold in the cilantro or top as a garnish.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1-2 days in an air-tight container.


5-Ingredient Chipotle Cashew Aioli

Cashew Sauce.jpg

Recipe by: The Minimalist Baker


  • 3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water (or unsweetened plain almond milk for creamier sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar (or sub organic cane sugar or stevia to taste)
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 1 tsp adobo sauce (more or less to taste)
  • optional: 1-2 Tbsp avocado, grape seed, canola or other neutral oil (for creaminess)
  • optional: pinch smoked paprika


  1. Add raw cashews to a mixing bowl (or a high-speed blender) and cover with boiling hot water. Let rest for 1 hour (uncovered). Then drain thoroughly.
  2. Add soaked, drained cashews to a high-speed blender with 1/2 cup water (or almond milk), lemon juice, sea salt, maple syrup, pepper + adobo sauce.
  3. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, adding more water or almond milk as needed to encourage blending. Scrape down sides as needed.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt to taste, lemon for acidity, maple syrup for sweetness, or adobo sauce for heat. I added more salt and another 2 chipotle peppers. Adding a little oil is optional and adds extra creaminess. Smoked paprika is also optional and adds a sweet smokiness to the sauce.
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.


Jalapeno Lime Chimichurri

Jalapeno Lime Chimichurri.jpg


  • ¬ĺ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup (or a small bunch) fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¬Ĺ jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¬ľ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
  2. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.


Basil Walnut Pesto

Basil Walnut Pesto.jpg


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon
  • dash of salt and pepper


  1. Add the walnuts to medium-size frying pan. Toast the walnuts evenly over medium heat until lightly browned (~3-4 minutes).
  2. Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  3. Refrigerate in a mason jar or an air-tight container for 5-7 days.








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The Heart of the Matter

Happy Friday eve friends! Heart Month is always a great month to reflect on your lifestyle choices and heart health. This February, I had a great time discussing simple swaps for a healthier heart with both Fox 17 (see the video link below) and the Walker Chamber of Commerce.


One of my main focuses with heart health is knowing your numbers (blood sugar, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight). Many people overestimate how healthy they are. In particular, a recent survey from Consumer Reports revealed that 90% of Americans think their diets are healthy, while in reality, 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. The resolution to this problem? Know your numbers! The numbers never lie.

With¬†1 of every 3 deaths caused by cardiovascular disease, it is essential that you take these simple swaps seriously because it affects so many Americans. If that statistic doesn’t scare you, think about this. When discussing heart health with the Chamber of Commerce, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they have known anyone with a cardiovascular condition, such as stroke, coronary heart disease, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Not surprisingly but sadly, almost everyone in the audience raised their hands. Heart health affects EVERYONE, not just those with a genetic history.

The great news?

Diet and lifestyle choices play a major role in heart health, making heart health within your control! By watching the amount of added sugar, salt, omega 3 fatty acid intake, and dietary fiber in your diet, you can¬†avoid those scary statistics listed above. Here’s how…

Simple Swaps to a Healthier Heart:

Choose whole grains over refined grains.


  • Whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber.
  • Getting adequate amounts of dietary fiber can help improve blood cholesterol, and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Whole grains are also excellent sources of B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium.
  • Shoot for making half of your grains whole grains or dietary fiber goal of at least 25 grams daily.
  • Types of whole grains: whole wheat or whole grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, barley, farro, and bulgur.
  • Not a big whole grain person? Consider adding or sneaking in other types of whole grains, such as chia seeds or ground flax seed to cereal (hot or cold), yogurt, smoothies, etc.

Choose fatty fish over other types of fish.


  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are examples of fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease risk of abnormal heartbeats, decrease triglyceride levels, reduce growth of heart plaque build-up, and lower blood pressure.
  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week.
  • Not a big fish person? You can get other healthy fats (i.e. mono and poly-unsaturated fatty acids) into your diet from other foods, such as:
    • Avocadoes
    • Canola or olive oil
    • Soybeans
    • Walnuts
    • Flaxseed
    • Chia seeds
    • Omega-3 fortified foods, such as eggs, milk, or yogurt.


Opt for low or zero calorie drinks over sugary beverages to help reduce added sugar intake.


  • Too much added sugar intake from sugary beverages, desserts (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, sweetened milk), candy, cookies, and refined grains can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
  • The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) to men.
  • Instead, hydrate yourself with low calorie beverages, such as water, unsweetened tea, or water infused with lemon, lime, cucumber, basil, or fresh mint.

Choose canned vegetables labeled “no salt added” or frozen vegetables without added sauces.


  1. Excess salt intake, especially from pre-packaged and processed foods, can put you at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, kidney disease, headaches, and kidney stones.
  2. The American Heart Association recommends a daily salt intake of less than 2000mg with a ultimate goal of less than 1500mg per day.
  3. Be sure to drain and rinse your canned beans or vegetables. This can cut the sodium back by 40%!

Participate in meatless Monday!


  • Enjoy a meatless day once a week to help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Substitute a Portobello mushroom for a beef patty when making a burger or replace ground beef with extra or different beans in chili to help reduce your saturated fat intake.


For more information on heart health, be sure to check out