Spice it up to Reduce Salt

Replacing dietary salt with spices and herbs helped keep salt intake within recommended guidelines

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Salt adds flavor to food, making it difficult for some to keep their salt intake to recommended amounts. A few substitutions during food preparation can help reduce salt intake and keep food flavorful.

Researchers tested whether teaching adults how to use spices and herbs could reduce salt intake.

These researchers found that people who were given advice on how to use spices and herbs reduced their salt intake by about a third.

"Ask a nutritionist how to reduce salt in your diet."

Cheryl Anderson, PhD, MPH, from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California in San Diego, CA, was the lead author of this study.

The research study was conducted in two phases. Fifty-five people took part in the first phase of the study. They were fed a diet low in salt for four weeks to get them used to the recommended amount of salt intake. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an intake of 1,500 mg of sodium (salt) daily.

Forty people from phase 1 took part in phase 2 of the research. In this phase, two groups of 20 people each were either given advice on how to decrease their salt intake by using spices and herbs or were told to keep their intake within the recommended guidelines. The second phase lasted 20 weeks.

The researchers measured the amount of salt excreted in the study subjects’ urine as a sign of how much salt they consumed.

Most of the study subjects were women (65 percent), and 88 percent were African American.

The results of phase 1 showed that salt in the urine decreased by more than half, from an average of 150 mmol/day to 72 mmol/day. Normal salt in the urine is 40 to 220 mmol/day.

By the middle of phase 2, salt in the urine had gone back up in each group to about 120 to 140 mmol/day. At the end of phase 2, the group who learned to use more spices and herbs in their food had 42 mmol/day less salt in their urine than the group who tried to limit salt intake on their own.

“Given the challenges of lowering salt in the American diet, we need a public health approach aimed at making it possible for consumers to adhere to an eating pattern with less salt," Dr. Anderson said in a press statement. "This intervention using education and tasty alternatives to sodium could be one solution.”

An abstract on the research was presented in March at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology & Prevention and Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Anderson disclosed receiving funding from the McCormick Science Institute Sponsored Research, sponsors of the study.

Review Date: 
March 19, 2014
Last Updated:
March 12, 2015