Go Ahead, Spice Up Your Diet
- Two new studies have found that consuming herbs and spices can help promote better cardiovascular health.
- One study found that adding herbs and spices to meals may help reduce blood pressure in people at risk of heart disease.
- The other study linked spice supplements to lower cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Herbs and spices add more than just flavor to food. They also provide potential benefits for your health.
“Studies have shown positive health benefits when including herbs and spices in the diet, including anti-inflammatory [properties],” Kayla Kirschner, RDN, a nutritionist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthline.
“Chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more,” she continued.
At this week’s NUTRITION 2021 Live Online meeting of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), scientists from Penn State University and Clemson University are scheduled to present findings from two studies that found benefits of herb and spice consumption for cardiovascular health.
One study found that adding herbs and spices to meals may help reduce blood pressure in people at risk of heart disease. The other study linked spice supplements to lower cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
“This research will help us to evaluate dosage, usage, and short-term effects,” said Kirschner, who wasn’t involved in the new research. “Hopefully, future studies will provide evidence on long-term effects.”
Benefits for blood pressure
Kristina Petersen, PhD, APD, is one of the scheduled presenters at this week’s ASN meeting. She’s an assistant research professor in the Cardiometabolic Nutrition Research Lab at Penn State College of Health and Human Development in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Petersen is presenting findings from a new study at Penn State and Texas Tech University, which examined the cardiometabolic effects of adding herbs and spices to the typical American diet.
“Our findings suggest that adding dried herbs and spices found in the spice aisle of the local supermarket to commonly made recipes has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease,” Petersen said.
The study included 71 U.S. adults with obesity and other risk factors of heart disease. Over the course of the study, participants ate a typical American diet, with 50 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, 17 percent from protein, and 33 percent from fat, including 11 percent from saturated fat.
Every 4 weeks, the participants rotated through a different version of the diet:
- a low spice version, with 0.5 grams per day of mixed herbs and spices
- a medium spice version, with 3.3 grams per day of mixed herbs and spices
- a high spice version, with 6.6 grams per day of mixed herbs and spices
- The researchers found that participants had lower 24-hour blood pressure levels when they ate a high spice diet. However, they found no differences in blood cholesterol or blood sugar levels.
“This is likely because we added the herbs and spices to a diet similar to what the average person in the United States consumes, which is not as nutritious as diets that are recommended for health and heart disease prevention,” Petersen said.
“It remains important to eat a healthy diet, including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes,” she added.