Oghomwen (Owen) Jones
There are various ways to enhance the taste of our foods. This often involves the addition of salt, pepper, various spices, herbs etc. to foods to improve their taste. We should always choose healthy options. When we do not, we can take away from the goodness of the healthy produce that are the foundation of the nutritious meals that we prepare.
Let’s take a look at some of the not so healthy food seasonings. There is a very large variety of these sold with the promise of improving the taste of foods. Many of these come in the form of cubes, or are ‘powder’ like.
The question is how healthy are they? Many seasoning products have a variety of ingredients…typically a lot of salt (sodium), hydrogenated oils, sugar, cornstarch, chicken, beef fat or fat from other meats, onion and garlic powders, spices, preservatives etc.
These additives are overly processed. As you must know, if you have read my book ‘Moderation Is Key’ or my previous blogs; I have discussed extensively, the need to be super cautious with foods, beverages and all other food accompaniments that are heavily processed. They have the potential to negatively impact our health over time.
Let’s take a close look at the main ingredient in seasoning cubes. They typically contain way too much salt.
Salt affects people differently. Increased salt can have no effect on some individuals, but for others, even a slight increase can elevate blood pressure. For this latter group, the ability to regulate bodily fluids by their kidneys can be greatly affected by the increase of sodium. This will contribute to extra water stored in the body elevating blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder and making it difficult to breathe. For sodium sensitive individuals, the higher the amount of salt consumed, the higher will be their blood pressure.
Increased blood pressure, causes a strain on the heart, arteries, kidneys and brain. These can eventually lead to heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
Our bodies eliminate excess salt via urine, alongside calcium. High levels of calcium in our urine can cause the development of kidney stones. This elimination of calcium can result in inadequate levels of
this vital metal in our body leading to thinning bones and osteoporosis.
See the range of conditions that can be induced by salt? I am certainly not advocating the total elimination of salt, as the right amounts are actually an important nutrient for the human body. Salt balances fluids in the body, maintains healthy blood pressure and is essential for nerve and muscle function.
If you must use these cubes, the reduced sodium variety are definitely a better choice. I do suggest some healthier natural food enhancers below. Please continue to read.
Other ingredients of concern in these cubes are hydrogenated oils,sugar and preservatives. Arguably these amounts are relatively small, but with many of these ingredients also present in other processed foods, the amounts consumed can quickly add up.
Very briefly, hydrogenated oils also known as trans fats have been found to cause gradual damage to the heart, when consumed over sustained periods. Studies have shown that these fats can increase the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL). These are both risk factors for heart disease.
Sugar is a contributory factor for weight gain, inflammation, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and increased blood pressure. These are all linked to an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Some other worrisome ingredients present in seasoning cubes are preservatives, corn starch, garlic and onion powders. These are all overly processed.
Other popular food taste enhancers are various condiments. These are sold as sauces or relishes, with a promise to enhance the flavour/enjoyment of food. Examples include, soy sauce, tomato ketchup, mustard, pickles etc. Again some of these contain sugar, salt and preservatives and can make the foods they are added to, less healthy.
Healthy seasonings should not alter the natural flavour of food, but compliment them. Minimally processed seasonings like sea salt, fresh and dried peppers, various fresh or dried herbs are healthier food seasoning options. To get the optimum flavours from these natural food enhancers, it is a good idea to marinade the food to be seasoned overnight with a combination of these ingredients. There are also other various natural food enhancers that are indigenous to our location.
Let’s endeavour to always season our foods with the healthier, less processed food enhancers available wherever we live. This will help ensure that we do not make the nutritious produce that we start with, less healthy.