- High blood pressure can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Researchers say adding spices to your food can help lower blood pressure, at least temporarily.
- They say spices such as cinnamon and ginger are nutrient-dense foods that contain compounds that can improve overall health.
- They add that using spices in foods instead of salt or sugar can also improve your health.
Increasing the seasoning on your food can not only spice up the flavor, it may also help lower your blood pressure.
Over the past several decades, researchers have studied the role of diet in managing heart disease, including blood pressure. Typically, studies look at the types of food choices people make.
The research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported that consuming herbs and spices lowered blood pressure, at least temporarily.
The researchers used 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, rather than one reading in your doctor’s office. Participants wore a cuff that took readings every 20 to 30 minutes. An average over a 24-hour period was then used.
The 63 participants in the study had at least one risk factor of heart disease. They were divided into three groups, each receiving a different level of spices on their food:
- low spice diet with .5 grams (g) daily
- moderate spice diet with 3.3 g daily
- high spice diet with 6.6 g daily
All participants followed their diets for 4 weeks, with a 2-week break in between.
The researchers reported that the high spice diet group tended to improve the 24-hour blood pressure readings compared with the low and moderate spice diet groups.
There was no effect on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, clinic measured blood pressure, markers of glycemia, vascular function, or oxidative stress.
“I am not surprised,” Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, a nutritionist at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, told Healthline. “Herbs and spices are high nutrient-dense plants with compounds that have been found in previous studies to improve health. Additionally, utilizing herbs and spices in place of salt can help with blood pressure as well.”
- Systolic BP measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic BP measures the pressure in your arteries in between beats.
The reading is written in systolic/diastolic order, for example, 110/90.
- Normal blood pressure is anything less than 120/80.
- Elevated is 120 to 129/less than 80.
- High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is 130 and higher/higher than 80.
The higher your blood pressure, the more you are at risk of experiencing other health concerns such as heart disease and stroke.
Often, there are no symptoms or signs of high blood pressure. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to measure it.
Adding seasoning to your food sounds like an easy way to lower your blood pressure, but what herbs and spices are best?
There are hundreds of different spices in stores. How do you know which to use?
“The study looked at a blend of 24 herbs and spices in various combinations, so it’s hard to know which were the most powerful at lowering blood pressure. I recommend a few of the spices as a starting point because they are easy to use, versatile, and tasty,” said Kanchan Koya, PhD, a nutritionist trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York City.
“The spices to begin incorporating in your diet are cinnamon, coriander, ginger, cumin, garlic, paprika, cardamom, thyme, oregano, and rosemary,” she said. “These are packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may also benefit the heart and overall health.”
Adding herbs and spices to your diet is a good start, but that alone is not enough to lower blood pressure and improve your heart health.
“Reducing or eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates is a powerful, evidence-based way to lower blood pressure,” Koya told Healthline.
“While too much salt can negatively affect cardiovascular disease risk, too much sugar can also increase blood pressure. The good news is that some of the spices mentioned previously, such as cinnamon and cardamom, can add a sweet, dessert-like taste to dishes without the need for added sugar,” said Koya.