In the sort of advanced societies that this page is aimed at, most people eat far more salt (sodium chloride) than is good for them. Although a little salt is a necessary part of our diet, in excess it is a major cause of high blood pressure and a serious contributor to the occurrence of strokes. Almost all commercially prepared food has added salt. There is therefore good reason to refrain from adding any salt to any home prepared food and for limiting the amount of commercially prepared food eaten. The harmful part of salt is the sodium, so the Chinese takeaway favourite monosodium glutamate (often abbreviated to MSG) is just as bad.
If you are used to adding salt to your food, then switching to no salt will, for a time, make the food taste strange. This effect is easily reduced to acceptable proportions by halving the amount you use for a week or so, by which time the reduced amount will taste normal, then try leaving it out altogether or, if that is still unacceptable to your palate, halve it a second time for another week or so. You will soon find that it is salted foods which taste unpleasant, and you will appreciate subtle food flavours which were previously hidden by the salt (provided they are not still hidden by any of the other flavourings mentioned below).
By "hot" spices I mean any additive to food which produces any kind of burning sensation on the tongue. This includes pepper, chilli, mustard, curry, etc. I am not aware of any definite health problem arising from these substances, although there is a possibility of kidney damage in extreme cases. The burning sensation is produced by chemicals in the plants used, which the plants produce as a defence mechanism to make themselves unpalatable, so harmful effects are certainly to be expected!
My complaint against these substances is first, that they taste unpleasant (that's just personal of course), but also that they thoroughly hide the subtle flavours of the food itself. Even a tiny quantity of any of these "flavourings" completely masks any but the strongest flavours of the food, and a palate that is used to consuming them will not even notice the finer flavours until it has had a week or two (at least) to recover, so if you are in the habit of using them, try going without for several weeks before expecting to find the true benefit of not using them. You will find it is well worth it.
Although not necessarily very unpleasant in itself, garlic is so strong tasting that except in the tiniest amounts it swamps the taste of most real food. Even worse is the way it remains on the breath and in the mouth and makes everything eaten for several hours afterwards also taste of garlic, besides being thoroughly anti-social! It is said to have some health benefits, but since these are shared with onions (including mild ones) and leeks, that is not, so far as I can see, a reason for using it. I wouldn't have it in the house.
Porridge is one of the most healthy breakfasts possible. Oats helps to control cholesterol levels (boosting good HDL and lowering unhealthy LDL) and has a very low glycaemic index, so releases sugar into the blood very slowly and keeps you feeling comfortably full longer than almost anything else. It is especially recommended for diabetics. Unfortunately, many of these benefits are negated if it is sweetened with sugar (or its equivalent in the form of syrup or the like) and the cholesterol benefit is reduced or eliminated if full-fat milk is added. I make it with water and fruit.
Ingredients (serves 1 person):
45 gm organic coarse oats (about half a cupful)
10 gm buckwheat flakes (about a desert spoonful)
330 ml water (just under two cupfuls) (less if prunes are used to compensate for the juice)
1 banana or a few prunes or a few cherry tomatoes or one or two larger tomatoes (depending on size). No doubt other fruit could be used.
The choice of fruit can have interesting effects on the colour of the finished product. The tomato version I sometimes refer to as vampire's porridge, and I leave you to guess what the prune-flavoured porridge looks like (my son-in-law says it's disgusting!). The banana does little to the colour, as you might expect.
Prepare the fruit first:
Banana: mash to a pulp
Prunes: soak overnight if dried, no preparation if tinned
Tomatoes: cut into pieces
Put the oats, buckwheat flakes and water, together with the prunes or tomatoes and their juice if used, into a non-stick pan and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for about 7-8 minutes. Add the banana if used, stir and serve.
The main purpose of the buckwheat flakes (besides adding nutritional variety) is to help prevent foaming when it starts boiling, but this can alternatively be controlled, with more difficulty, by heating more slowly and stirring continuously until the foaming stops.
This recipe I have not yet tried. It was published in the Independent Diabetes Trust December 2012 newsletter:
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