Struggling to eat less salt? Learn to use herbs, spices

If you want people to cut back on salt by using herbs and spices to flavor foods, they’ll have much more success if you also show them how to do it.

That’s pretty much the message of a study presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014.

Most Americans consume too much salt (sodium). Excess sodium in the diet is a major cause for high blood pressure, which damages the heart, arteries and other organs, according to the AHA.

Since people often use salt as a flavoring, a popular tip for reducing sodium is to suggest people use herbs and spices instead. But not everyone knows that cinnamon can be used in a Mexican dish, for example, or what foods are best complemented by rosemary. They need to be taught.

Which is what Cheryl Anderson, PhD, and her colleagues decided to try.

“We studied the use of a behavioral intervention where people learn how to use spices and herbs and less salt in their daily lives,” said Dr. Anderson, lead author of the study.

About the study

The study involved 55 overweight adults. More than 60 percent of them had high blood pressure and 18 percent had diabetes.

In the first phase of the study, the adults ate low-sodium foods for four weeks. Their average sodium intake dropped from 3,450 milligrams to 1,656 milligrams daily. (The AHA recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium every day.)

In the second phase of the study, half of the adults were assigned to a 20-week behavioral intervention program. The people in this group learned how to use herbs and spices to flavor foods, instead of salt. They took part in cooking demonstrations and discussed the ways they were lowering the amount of sodium in their favorite recipes.

The remaining adults were left to their own devices to figure out how to lessen the amount of sodium they consumed.

At the study’s end, the adults in the intervention program were consuming an average of 966 milligrams less sodium per day than the people who weren’t taught how to use herbs and spices.

The take-home message
Learning how to use herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt can help you lower your daily sodium intake.

Check out these 10 ways to shake your salt habit. You also can find tips for making your own spice blends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tip sheet Eating Right With Less Salt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *