Use herbs and spices in cooking to reduce sodium levels

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Estimates by the Department of Health indicate that by reducing salt intake by one gram, 4147 deaths could be prevented, with a saving of around £288 million to the NHS on an annual basis.

Researchers have called for cooking lessons that show individuals how to make use of herbs and spices in an attempt to reduce their salt consumption. They have found that it is more effective to teach people how to use alternate flavouring, such as herbs and spices, rather than leaving them to figure it out on their own.

A recent study involved 55 volunteers who were placed on a low-sodium diet for a period of four weeks, with all food and drinks being provided by the researchers. In the second part of the study, half of the participants were involved in a 20-week intervention which required them to reduce their sodium consumption to 1.5 grams daily by making use of herbs and spices. The other half were left to reduce their intake on their own.

Of the participants in the study, in excess of 60% suffered with high blood pressure, around 20% had diabetes and they were all overweight.

During the first phase, researchers discovered that the sodium consumption of the participants was reduced from an average of 3.45 grams per day to around 1.656 grams per day.
During the second phase, the sodium consumption increased in both groups. However, those on the behavioural intervention group used approximately 966 mg of sodium less than the group who were left on their own.

This indicated to the researchers that helping individuals cook their meals differently provided them with more control over their diets. The intervention group were shown how to use herbs and spices in their recipes, how to monitor their diets, how different cultures use spices, and how to overcome the barriers to dietary adjustments. They were also shown how to choose and order foods when they were eating out, as well as how to effectively keep their intake of salt low in the future.

Average salt consumption in most western countries is far higher than the recommended amount and this can be attributed to the amount of salt used in various manufactured food products.

The current target level is 6 grams each day.

Image credit: THOR

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