The Indian kitchen never ceases to amaze us. A myriad of ingredients are combined with the ancient wisdom of the generations before us to create a powerful storehouse of home remedies. There is something for every need of the human body! Do you have a sore throat? The humble ginger will come to your rescue. Suffering from digestive issues? Drink some cumin water to blow away your troubles. And now, believe it or not, scientists and researchers have come up with yet another beneficial feature of the spices in your usual masala box. According to a recent study, adding herbs and spices to your food may also help lower blood pressure.
The study was conducted by researchers at University of Penn State and Texas University and published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In a controlled-feeding study, about 71 people with risk of heart disease were recruited. Three kinds of diets were offered to the participants with low, medium and high quantities of herbs and spices. A mixture of 24 common spices was used, such as basil, thyme, cinnamon and turmeric. The diet was not heart-healthy in particular, and resembled the average American diet in every way except the use of spices.
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Scientists found that seasoning food with herbs and spices may not just make food tastier but also have significant effects on heart health. The conclusion of the study was that those who consumed the diet with high quantity of spices had lower blood pressure than others. Thus, this suggested that consuming 6.5 miligrams or 1.3 teaspoons of herbs and spices in a day was linked with lower blood pressure after four weeks.
Penny Kris-Etherton, Evan Pugh University Professor of Nutritional Sciences said the findings offer people a simple way to help improve their heart health. A commonly suggested method to regulate blood pressure is to reduce sodium or salt intake. Thus, herbs and spices offer an easy alternative to salt for flavouring as well as good heart health.
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“Adding herbs and spices to your food is a great way to add flavor without adding extra sodium, sugar or saturated fat,” Kris-Etherton said. “And, if you go a step further and add these seasonings to foods that are really good for you, like fruits and vegetables, you can potentially get even more health benefits by consuming that extra produce.”
Kristina Petersen, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University agrees, “As nutritionists, we’re interested in new ways we can use diet to benefit health, and cardiovascular health in particular. We were curious about how herbs and spices could affect heart health, since they are versatile and can be added to many different types of food.”
Researchers think that the findings are of vital importance and could guide future recommendations for heart patients as well. “I think it’s really significant that participants consumed an average American diet throughout the study and we still found these results,” Kris-Etherton said. “We didn’t decrease sodium, we didn’t increase fruits and vegetables, we just added herbs and spices. It begs the next question that if we did alter the diet in these ways, how much better would the results be?”