Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
When you think about keeping your heart healthy, you probably think about certain foods you should – and shouldn’t – eat to keep key factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and weight under control. But there’s a smaller, more subtle ingredient that could play a surprisingly significant role in lowering your risk for heart health woes, and it’s the seasoning you sprinkle in while you’re cooking.
That’s right, every pinch of dried herbs and ground spices you add into your meals can affect your heart health. But there’s good news: Spices and seasonings tend to have a positive effect overall. So, what can adding a little spice do for you? Here’s what the latest research says.
More flavor means better blood pressure
A research study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in October 2021 took a look at the connection between seasoning and heart health. Researchers studied 71 participants, all of whom had existing risk factors for heart disease. The participants were assigned three diets: a low-spice diet (just 0.5 g of spices daily), a moderate-spice diet (3.2 g per day), or a high-spice diet (6.5 g daily). They spent four weeks on each of these diets, trying them one at a time with a two-week break in between.
While on the low, moderate and high spice diets, the participants stuck with a seasoning blend of 24 different herbs and spices. But the exact combination of herbs and spices didn’t really matter; rather, it was the amount of seasoning that had the biggest impact.
Researchers found that the high-spice diet was the most impactful for heart health. Participants had lower systolic blood pressure when eating 6.5 grams of spices daily. Systolic blood pressure levels were higher on the low and moderate spice diets. Diastolic blood pressure levels were also lower on the high-spice diet.
Researchers weren’t able to draw a direct link between an increase in seasoning and an overall lower risk for cardiovascular disease; more research will be needed. But the results showed promise in shaping one critical factor for cardiovascular disease, and seasoning may be another nutritional tool you can use to improve your overall heart health, along with your diet.
Herbs and spices may even help if you aren’t making other health-forward changes
While more research is needed to see just how impactful seasoning can be for your heart, this study’s results could have a great impact for those at risk for cardiovascular problems. Participants were able to lower their blood pressure without making drastic changes – a feat that may be helpful for better overall heart health.
Researchers didn’t ask participants to cut back on sodium, remove or add in different foods, or alter their usual diets in any way. Adding in a mix of herbs and spices could be an easy way to give your diet a heart-healthy boost. And if you pair those seasonings with a healthy diet, you might potentially get even more benefits.
So, if you’re looking out for your heart and your overall risk for cardiovascular disease, season your food well! You can master herbs and spices, stock your pantry with tasty seasonings and potentially work towards better blood pressure: