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HAWC offers classes, healthy eating tips

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- March is National Nutrition Month, a perfect time to cut back on sodium and look at new ways to flavor your food. 

Most Americans consume a high-sodium diet without even realizing it because sodium is prevalent in many foods, including packaged and restaurant foods. 

Even if you don't reach for the salt shaker every time you sit down, you can still be going over the recommended amount of 2,300 mg per day! 

Research shows that a diet high in sodium can be harmful to our health because it raises blood pressure. Sodium attracts water, and a high-sodium diet draws water into the bloodstream, which increases the volume of the blood and subsequently, your blood pressure. 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, makes the heart work harder, and the increased force of blood flow can harm arteries and organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes. 

If you're concerned about hypertension, or just want to cut back on the bloat that comes with a heavy meal, try using herbs instead of salt when you're cooking. Many recipes rely on salt as a way to improve the aroma, reduce bitterness, and balance out the flavors of a dish. But overdoing it on salt can lead to high blood pressure and up your risk for stroke. Here are some tips to get the most out of herbs and reduce your sodium intake!

Using Herbs
*When cooking with fresh herbs, add strong herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage and marjoram to dishes early in the cooking process. That way, they release maximum flavor while ensuring the texture will be less invasive. Save delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives and basil until the last minute so they retain their flavor and color.

Some ideas for herbs:
*Parsley: This herb can be added to many dishes - from eggs to pasta. It's also high in vitamin K, which helps blood clot and keeps bones strong.

*Basil: Pair basil with tomato-based foods, like pizza, pasta, and vegetables. Basil contains flavonoids, protective antioxidants that can protect against cancer.

*Rosemary: Great when added to poultry and meats, rosemary can be used to marinate and to cook with. 

*Mint: Mint can be added to hot or cold pasta, such as couscous. Mint's also an excellent source of vitamin C, which heals wounds and aids in the absorption of iron. 

Developing a mindful eating pattern that includes flavorful and healthy foods is the best way to savor the flavor of eating right. Make every day more flavorful by incorporating these tips for a healthier you. 

Herbed Yogurt Dip
A tasty, quick and protein-filled dip that can take the place of store-bought (and sodium laden) dips. Try it with fresh crudites, roasted vegetables, or crackers. Make on Sundays for a quick snack during the week.

Yogurt Dip Ingredients
·1 cup plain Greek yogurt
·1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
·1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or dried dill
·1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
·2 cloves of garlic, grated
·Zest of 1 lemon plus juice of  ½ lemon
·Pinch of sea salt
·Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Recipe directions
Combine the yogurt, olive oil, parsley, dill, garlic and lemon zest and juice, sea salt and black pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Taste to check seasonings and adjust as needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is ready to be served.  (Recipe adapted from https://www.cabotcheese.coop/ greek-yogurt-cucumber-sauce-tzatziki.)

Editor's note: All of these topics are covered in the HAWC's next 12-week Better Body, Better Life program starting April 4. The program is open to all employees and family members 18 and older. To register, stop by Bldg. 827 or call 478-222-6907. Check out the HAWC's Facebook page for events, tips and a new recipe in the Rev-Up weekly this month.