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Put away that salt shaker: Cooking and Nutrition Tips

SALT-SENSITIVE PEOPLE KNOW THAT cutting back on your sodium intake can help lower or prevent high blood pressure. But even if you're not in that group, keeping sodium levels in check will benefit your health; too much salt in your diet leaches calcium from your bones, which weakens them.

You can cut back on sodium but keep your taste buds interested by using flavorful ingredients, like herbs, spices, onions, and chiles, instead of salt. Not only do these ingredients liven up your meals, some of them actually help reduce your blood pressure. Citrus juices and chile peppers contain vitamin C, which relaxes and widens your blood vessels. And the sulfur in garlic and onions also has blood-pressure-lowering abilities.

Make the most of these flavor boosters by cooking them the right way: Add spices, chiles, and hearty herbs like rosemary and thyme at the beginning of cooking. Add acidic ingredients like lime juice or vinegar, and mild fresh herbs like chives and cilantro, at the end. Saute garlic, chiles, and whole spices like cumin or mustard seeds in oil so their flavors will permeate a dish.

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