12 HEALTHY Flavor Enhancers

Just because you’re cutting back on certain foods doesn’t mean you have to cut back on flavor. Here are some healthful and delicious ways to liven up your meals.


Rich in omega-3s, these tiny fish add depth to vinaigrettes, marinades, sauces, and sauteed vegetables. Look for jars of salt-packed fillets, which when rinsed will actually taste less salty, or those packed in extra-virgin olive oil.


A fresh squeeze of lemon or lime adds just the right amount of acidity to round out most any dish, savory or sweet. The grated zest is equally flavorful.

Dried Peppers

Red-pepper flakes and ground dried chile peppers, add a nice kick. Incorporate them into all sorts of savory dishes, or sprinkle them over a snack of avocado and lime juice.

Finishing Oils

Nut and seed oils- walnut, hazelnut, avocado, and pumpkin- break down quickly wen heated, so it’s best not to cook with them; drizzle them over fished dishes instead.

Fish Sauce

A staple of Southeast Asian cooking, this fermented sauce is a good source of protein and B vitamins when used in moderation (it’s high in sodium). Look for an all-natural, first-press fish sauce without added water, preservatives, or MSG, which are often found in second- and third-grade varieties.

Fresh Herbs

Aim to include fresh varieties of herbs in every meal. They have many health benefits and are a delicious way to enhance any dish.

Ground Seeds

Grind seeds like flax, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds in a spice grinder or clean coffee mill, then sprinkle over everything from salads to breakfast porridges.


This protein-rich fermented soybean paste imparts a savory taste the Japanese call umami (also called “the fifth flavor”). It comes in three varieties: shiro (white), aka (red), and awase (mixed). I prefer the mild taste of shiro.

Nori Sprinkles

These have higher levels of minerals than sheet nori, making them a nutritious addition to many savory dishes. Sprinkle over soups and salads, or incorporate into sauces, dressing, and dips.


It’s hard to think of any dish- even a dessert- that isn’t improved by salt. Opt for sea salts such as sel gris, fleur de sel, flake salt (such as Maldon), and Hawaiian sea salt. Himalayan salt is particularly rich in minerals and is believed to be one of the least processed salts available.

Tomato Paste

Boost the flavor of savory dishes with this concentrated tomato puree. For an even richer flavor, cook it in olive oil until deep red and caramelized. Freeze leftover tomato paste in ice-cube trays for later use (transfer to resealable bags once firm.


Keep an assortment on hand to brighten virtually all manners of savory dishes. Varieties include: red wine, white wine, sherry, balsamic, apple cider, and rice vinegar.


Recipe for Omega-3 Vinaigrette

Whisk together 18 oil-packed sliced anchovies, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, 2 teaspoons chopped shallots, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.


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