Liz Weber is a Registered Dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, and for today’s “On the Menu” segment, she discusses strategies for enhancing the flavor of foods without adding salt.

February is National Heart Health Month, and it's a great time to reflect on our lifestyle or dietary choices that may affect our heart health.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, which is 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 has high blood pressure.

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 1,500 milligrams per day with a limit of 2,300 mg per day.

Let's talk about some ways to flavor foods without using too much salt.

Top 3 Tips:

Increase acidity by using different vinegars or use bold herbs, roots, and seasonings.

Vinegars: apple cider, balsamic, wine (red, white, and sherry), rice wine, malt

  • 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/lime juice

Ginger, turmeric, horseradish

Nutritional yeast as a healthy cheese substitute

Fresh, dried, or canned peppers (poblano, chipotle, chili, etc.)

Marinate and infuse dishes with pureed fruits/vegetables.

Marinate your proteins (fish, chicken, pork, beef, tofu, etc.) to avoid adding extra salt or seasoning after cooking.

Infuse savory sauces with pureed butternut squash or cauliflower instead of extra salt or chicken broth for flavor dimension.

Create sauces to top dishes with heart-healthy fats.

Salads or vegetable sides:

  • Avocado Crema using Greek yogurt
  • Chipotle Cashew Aioli
  • Meats or Starches: Chimichurri

Anything: Basil Walnut Pesto

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


Avocado Crema


  • 2 avocados, pitted
  • 1/2 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
  • Recipe by: The Minimalist Baker
  • Ingredients
  • 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


  • ¾ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup (or a small bunch) fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ 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


  • 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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