New research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014 showed people who receieved guidance on substituting spices and herbs for salt have a better chance of decreasing sodium consumption that those who attempt it alone.
Researchers studied 55 volunteers over a 20-week period, providing all food and drink for the first phase of the experiment. Participants ate a low-sodium diet during this phase. In the second phase, researchers had half of volunteers reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg/day by using spices and herbs through a behavioral intervention.
The other half were instructed to reduce sodium intake on their own. More than 60 percent of participants had high blood pressure, while 18 percent were overweight diabetics.
The research team found sodium intake decreased from an average 3,450 mg/day to an average 1,656 mg/day in the first part of the study, while sodium intake increased in both groups in the latter phase. However, those who received the behavioral intervention consumed an average 966 mg/day of sodium less than the group that didn't. Salt accounts for a large part of sodium intake.
"People in the intervention group learned problem-solving strategies, use of herbs and spices in recipes, how culture influences spice choices, how to monitor diet, overcoming the barriers to making dietary changes, how to choose and order foods when eating out and how to make low-sodium intake permanent," said Cheryl A. M. Anderson, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California San Diego.
The intervention group was provided with cooking demonstrations detailing how to change traditional recipes by removing salt and using spices. The researchers didn't champion one or several spices over others, but encouraged participants to try different options to find out what they liked best.
"Salt is abundant in the food supply and the average sodium level for Americans is very high -- much higher than what is recommended for healthy living," Anderson said. "We studied the use of a behavioral intervention where people learn how to use spices and herbs and less salt in their daily lives."
The study was funded by The McCormick Science Institue.