Spice Up Your Life
Americans consume far more salt than the recommended maximum limit of 2,400 milligrams of sodium, which is about one teaspoon of salt. Many people avoid placing the salt shaker on the table to reduce their salt intake, but the main problem stems from the high consumption of processed and packaged foods. This is problematic for several reasons, but most significantly high salt intake leads to high blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). One way to avoid an overly salty diet is to eat a spicier diet. Cooking with herbs and spices can make meals tasty and delicious without using any additional salt. Research is suggesting that a high spice intake may even change the way your brain interprets sodium intake, causing a reduction in craving salty foods.
What the Science is Saying: A 2017 study in China on spice preference to salt intake suggests more than a few benefits of consuming a diet high in spices. The salt intake of more than 600 adults was studied in a randomized, double-blind observational study. Findings suggested that high spice preference was associated with high salt sensitivity; therefore, those who consumed more spices were found to have a lower, healthier blood pressure. Interestingly, consuming a small amount of capsaicin, an active component found in chili pepper, was found to increase the participants’ perception of saltiness.
Bottom Line: The benefits of spices range from providing a good source of antioxidants to being a salt substitute. Curry, chili, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg and garlic are all powders that can add significant flavor to your meals without contributing to your sodium intake. For a healthier future, spice up your pantry.
Written by: Charlotte Walker, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.