I will never pass up an opportunity to talk about cooking in this space. It’s part of my continuing effort to help you understand just how simple preparing homecooked meals that are both delicious and healthy can be.
And if you’ve ever watched any of my cooking videos, then you know I’m a big believer in seasoning your food with lots of herbs and spices. This not only adds flavor, but powerful health-boosting polyphenols, to boot.
How powerful? Well, recently published research answered that question for us…
Herbs and spices offer powerful protection
Researchers recruited 71 subjects, all with heart disease risk factors. All subjects ate three different versions of the same average American diet. (Of course, I can only imagine what the outcome would have been if the participants had been coached to eat healthier foods. But I digress.)
One version of the diet was low in added herbs and spices (featuring about 0.5 grams). Another version featured moderate spices (3.2 grams daily). And the other version was high in herbs and spices (6.5 grams daily).
The “doses” included a blend of two dozen different herbs and spices, from basil and thyme to cinnamon and turmeric. The subjects followed every regimen in random order for four weeks each, with two-week breaks in between.
Ultimately, the researchers discovered that participants had lower systolic blood pressure (the top number) after eating the diet high in herbs in spices compared to the diet featuring moderate herbs and spices. And their diastolic pressure (the bottom number) dropped with a high dose of herbs and spices, too, compared to eating a diet low in herbs and spices.
That’s not too shabby—especially when you consider that the diet itself wasn’t heart-healthy. In fact, I’d call it pretty darn remarkable.
Start experimenting with different flavors today
The high “dose” of 6.5 grams of herbs and spices used in this study amounts to just under 1.5 teaspoons. So, honestly, can you even imagine a simpler way to lower your blood pressure?
Because I certainly can’t. And let’s face it, we have to start focusing on easy interventions like this, as cardiometabolic diseases—heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes—remain some of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
These are all diseases we have eaten our way into. But as I regularly report, and as this study shows, we can also eat our way out of these diseases.
Of course, this study did veer into stupid territory by pushing for lower salt consumption. But as you and I both know, the majority of sodium intake comes from processed foods. And there’s quite a difference between the salt in your shaker—and the salt found in those junk foods.
So assuming that you’re following a healthy, balanced diet—full of fresh, whole foods—adding some salt to your cooking is a positive in my book. (And I’ve written a few of them.)
Yes, there’s a small segment of the population whose hypertension goes hand in hand with sodium intake. But for the rest of us, there’s no reason to keep salt out of the kitchen.
But one other very clear benefit of cooking with herbs and spices is that you’re able to add a whole lot of flavor without having to resort to adding sugar. (Remember, sugar kills!)
Of course, be aware that a lot of those spice blends on store shelves will have sugar added. Opt for the plain, individual herbs and spices instead—and then experiment with the different flavor combinations.
It may not always turn out the way you planned. But I bet it will be delicious, either way.
“Adding herbs and spices to meals may help lower blood pressure.” Penn State University, 11/08/2021. (psu.edu/news/story/adding-herbs-and-spices-meals-may-help-lower-blood-pressure/)