For Latinos, family gatherings and celebrations always mean sharing a great meal. It is part of our culture to indulge and share with others the endless dishes and combinations that Latin cuisine has to offer. However, more often than not, we are indulging in unhealthy foods that take a toll in our bodies. One of the main culprits in our deteriorating health is the excess of sodium in our diets.
In the Hispanic community, statistics show that women are developing heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women. Moreover, only 1 in 3 Latinas is aware heart disease is the number 1 killer among us. I have experienced the fatal consequences of abusing salt within my own family. That’s why I’m on a mission to change our eating habits for the better.
Many times we are hesitant in changing the old patterns because we think that reducing sodium will affect the overall flavor of our meals. Can a comida latina (Latin meal) be any good if the sabor is not there? Fear not. The reality is, once you reduce and/or eliminate sodium from your cooking and your overall diet, you’ll learn to appreciate the real flavor of the foods.
Not only that, if you pay attention to the labels when you go grocery shopping, you’ll end up buying more wholesome products, with fewer chemicals and sugars and more whole grain. Less process = Better foods.
Don’t be afraid; we are not reinventing the wheel. Cooking a la latina with all of the natural spices, vegetables and sofrito gives you all the flavor you need, and then some. Trust your abuelita and go back to basics, and reeducate your palates for good.
Here are tips to get you going…
Ditch the saltshaker 1 of 5
Say goodbye to the extra sodium, the American Heart Association recommends eating less than 1,500 mg a day. Instead, you can season and color with achiote, oregano, garlic and cilantro. You can always prepare your own homemade sofrito or buy it depending on where you live. Photo credit: AuntLaya on Morguefile.
Garlic is your friend 2 of 5
This is the best ally to add flavor to your meals. Many Latin staples use garlic as their secret ingredient. Is all about the right amount and combination of spices to make a dish great.
Photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o on Morguefile.
Get the real deal 3 of 5
Instead of buying the supermarket stuff, visit your farmer's market and buy the raw, natural spices. These have much more flavor and aroma and will give that gourmet touch to your meals.
Photo credit: Lisa Solonynko on Morguefile.
Use fruits to give a kick 4 of 5
Lime, lemon and other fruits will give the touch of sweet and sour that makes most traditional Latin dishes spectacular.
Photo credit: Hotblack on Morguefile.
Make balanced meals 5 of 5
As a Dominican, I cannot imagine my life without my arroz blanco. Eating rice is so important for many of us, but I have learned to eat it in moderation and to cook it without oil or salt. It was hard in the beginning, but now I love it. I also add a good companion, like meat and veggies, to make it flavorful and wholesome. No extra salt needed!
Photo credit: Dania Santana.