Herbs and spices used to reduce sodium intake

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Herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations inhabiting all corners of the earth, offering various benefits for both physical and spiritual health. With the development of new technology, Western medicine has strayed further and further from the planet's natural resources.

However, some scientists have recently begun to study and understand the benefits of herbs and spices that have been successful in treating many ailments for indigenous peoples. One recent paper entitled "Spices and Herbs: Improving Public Health Through Flavorful Eating," published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Today, examines the relationship between consuming spices and herbs and their impact on America's overall health.

Health professionals, academia, chefs, government officials and the food industry convened in Washington, D.C., last May at a Science Summit conference by the McCormick Science Institute partnered with the American Society for Nutrition to discuss how "flavorful eating" correlates with good health.

Experts from various fields including the food industry, government and education gather at science summit to discuss the health benefits of ancient spices and herbs

A special edition of the journal was produced for the conference proceedings, featuring 16 papers by leading experts exploring the latest research on spices and herbs, according to Newswise, noting benefits that include a reduction in sodium, calorie and fat intake.

The aforementioned paper discusses the positive impact that spices and herbs have on diet quality, also comparing findings from previous studies that suggest certain spices and herbs have "beneficial effects on satiety, energy metabolism, inflammation, insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors."

Respectful of Earth's natural elements, the McCormick Science Institute plans to further examine the link between "flavor and public health" in hopes of educating the public on what they consider an "important connection."

"We now understand that spices and herbs have a meaningful role to play in bringing flavor to the forefront of today's health and wellness conversations," said Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, professor of medicine and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine.

"It will take all of us working together -- from scientists to chefs and product developers to policy makers -- before we can really begin to improve public health through flavorful eating," added Dwyer, who spoke at the summit and also serves as editor for Nutrition Today.

How spices and herbs make you happier and healthier
Spicing up healthy meals, such as lean meats, veggies and pasta, allows us to accept and enjoy nutritious food better, making them much more appealing, says James O. Hill, PhD, from the University of Colorado and the Denver-based Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, a facility well known for its role on the popular show Extreme Weight Loss.

Using spices and herbs for added flavor also helps reduce sodium intake without sacrificing taste, according to a study which found that participants using spices and herbs consumed an average of 966 mg/day less sodium, compared to the group not encouraged to spice up their food.

"Culinary amounts of red pepper" proved to increase energy expenditure and satiety in healthy adults, suggesting that it might contribute to weight-loss efforts, says Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga, PhD from Maastricht University.

Adding a spice blend to high-fat meals "decreased post-meal insulin and triglyceride levels compared to the same meal without added spices," according to Sheila West, PhD from Pennsylvania State University.

David Heber, MD, PhD from UCLA , who also presented findings at the summit added to this theory when his research showed that adding a spice mixture to hamburger meat helps protect fat from oxidation.

Experts concluded that consumer education, product development and public policy must all coincide to "elevate the dialogue around spices and herbs."

 Key words:  Chinese herbs

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