A medical study published in February 2018 (mentioned by the Harvard Medical School website) revealed the health benefits of spices and spicy foods. Researchers found that people who eat spicy food have a reduced salt intake and lower blood pressure compared to people who eat less spicy food and therefore more salt. That, in turn, helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
While it's still debatable whether food can be an alternative to medicine, it is well established that a disciplined approach to your diet can ward off chronic health conditions and even reverse them in some cases.
Food can go a long way in preventing a chronic condition from happening in the first place.
A clinical study conducted by the McCormick Science Institute in the US in 2013 found that certain polyphenol rich spice blends may lead to potential cardiovascular health benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes. Spices and herbs are naturally rich in polyphenols (chemical compounds found in plants which are attributed anti-oxidant properties).
The best food sources for polyphenols are cocoa, green tea, flaxseed, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, artichokes, blueberries, blackberries and extra virgin olive oil. Among spices and herbs, those said to be the richest in polyphenols (and therefore antioxidants) are:
- star anise
Another study published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2011 examined whether spice blends and eating a spice-rich diet can reduce the body's negative responses to high fat meals. High fat diets cause inflammation in the body, which in turn is responsible for the development of many chronic diseases. This study found that the daily incorporation of spices into your diet can enhance the body's antioxidant defence. Excess salt can cause high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, stomach cancer and osteoporosis.
The scary fact is that nearly 3/4 of school children in Victoria eat more salt than the recommended amount. There is nowadays more evidence to suggest that children pick up poor eating habits that impact their lifelong health. The more they are exposed to salty foods in childhood, the more they will crave them. This taste preference is likely to stay with them for life and lead to excess salt consumption later on in life. That's why it's so important to teach children good eating habits when they are young. And there's no better way than involving them in home cooking - with spices and herbs - to instil those healthy values and form new eating habits that will contribute to a healthy and happy future.
What many people don't realise is that packed, so called 'convenience' foods used for quick and easy weeknight dinners contain seriously excessive amounts of salt.
One serve of ready made pasta sauce can contain 15% of an adult's recommended daily intake! A simple ham and cheese sandwich contains almost 50% of the adult recommended daily salt allowance. This is higher for children. Some of the worst offenders are:
- white bread, wraps, rolls and bagels
- frozen foods, such as lasagna, pizzas and pies
- cooking sauces, like pasta sauces, pesto, mustards, mayo and seasonings
- processed meats like sausages, ham, bacon and salami - all contain saturated fats as well as excessive salt
- dips, chips and crackers
- dressings and condiments like BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and flavoured oils and marinades
- baked goods like doughnuts, pancakes and muffins
So what can you do to keep your salt intake at bay but still enjoy food?
- Cook - When you cook at home you're in control of what you eat, how much salt fat and sugar goes into your body and the quantities you consume. With simple ingredients like fresh tomatoes, vegetables, spices and herbs you can make your own, low salt, pasta or pizza sauce, salad dressings and exotic seasoning for your meat, fish and veggies. It's so easy, quick and so much better for you than takeaway, fast food or packed, ready-made condiments and sauces. That's why Sprinkle blends are so great - you don't need to hunt down five different spices to make a recipe or waste money on bulk spices you'll never use again. The spice blends come in small sized jars and are all the spice you'll need for so many different dishes. They save you the hassle of buying different spice, grinding, roasting, mixing and washing up. We do all the hard work so you don't have to.
- Ditch pre-packed and pre-seasoned food. Ditch greasy takeaways. - Go for fresh fruit and vegetables - they are naturally salt-free and bursting with nutrients. It'll taste so much better. And you'll find that the right diet leads to better mood, more energy, better immunity and overall wellness.
- Check the labels - many products come in no salt or reduced salt versions. Always check the labels for sodium levels and always look for products that have no salt to begin with.
- Experiment with spices are herbs - spices and herbs offer a great alternative to salt in so many dishes. Explore dill and tarragon with fish, mint, rosemary and cumin with lamb, thyme with pretty much anything (great on chicken, in soups and stews), rosemary with all kinds of grilled and roasted vegetables. Add garlic and lemon juice for even more anti-oxidants and vitamins. Use spice blends to enhance your food and flavours. Add them to tried and tested recipes and taste the difference. Instead of feeling bloated, thirsty and lethargic, you'll feel energetic, rejuvenated, light and clear-minded.
Remember - once you're on a reduced salt path, your taste and preferences will adjust and you'll learn to appreciate the cleaner taste and wholesomeness of real food. Awareness is the first step to wellness. You can control what you put into your food and your body will thank you for it.