Adding herbs and spices to meals may help lower blood pressure, study finds

Seasoning your food with herbs and spices may not only improve the taste of your meals, but new research suggests it may benefit your health as well. 

In a new control-feeding study published by Oxford University on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition, researchers found seasoning foods with 6.6 grams — or about 1.3 teaspoons — of herbs and spices was linked to lower blood pressure in adults after four weeks.

Penny Kris-Etherton, a co-author of the study and professor at Penn State University, said the findings offer people a simple way to help improve their heart health.

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"The most surprising finding to me was that the simple addition of herbs and spices to an average Western diet had a blood pressure-lowering effect," Kris-Etherton told FOX Television Stations. "In combination with a healthy diet (which is the next study to conduct), I would expect quite significant diet-related blood-pressure-lowering effects." 

For the study, the researchers recruited 71 people with risk factors for heart disease. Seventy participants received the first allocated diet, and 89% of the randomly assigned participants completed the whole trial.

The participants consumed every spice diet — one low, one moderate, and one high in herbs and spices — in a random order for four weeks each, with a two-week break between each diet period. Blood samples were drawn from each participant at the beginning of the study as well as after each diet period.

"The doses included a blend of 24 different herbs and spices, ranging from basil and thyme to cinnamon and turmeric, designed to simulate the way people use different herbs and spices throughout the day while cooking," the study’s press release noted.

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The researchers found that after consuming the diet including a high dose of herbs and spices, participants had lower systolic blood pressure than after the diet with the medium and lower doses.

"To our knowledge, this is the first controlled feeding study to examine the effect of incorporating mixed herbs and spices into a US-style dietary pattern on risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases," the study authors wrote. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease.

One way people can lower their risk of heart disease is through a healthy diet. The CDC says to limit the intake of salt, sugar, saturated fat, alcohol and processed foods.

Kristina Petersen, a co-lead investigator of the study, told Penn State that people have long been encouraged to season their food with herbs and spices instead of salt to boost flavor without added sodium, but less was known about whether herbs and spices have health benefits of their own.

But this research shows you may want to grab the herbs and spices, rather than the salt, the next time you prepare your meal. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.