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Cut salt and sugar intake with help from herbs and spices

May 28, 2014

It's common to hear how the American diet is too high in sugar and sodium, especially as more food is processed with chemicals and packed with preservatives. Reducing these additives is particularly beneficial to older people living with hypertension or diabetes, but make for an overall better diet for any senior. Here are a few ways to cut back on salt and sugar consumption to encourage a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

Salty substitutions
Research conducted by the American Heart Association found people who learned how to use herbs and spices to season food were able to cut back on salt intake. The researchers examined two groups of volunteers - one was responsible for cutting back on sodium on their own and the other took part in a behavioral intervention including culinary instruction. It was determined that the behavioral intervention group consumed about 966 fewer milligrams of salt than the other group. According to the lead author Cheryl A.M. Anderson, Ph.D., the program provided education regarding selecting food while eating out, how spice prevalence is determined by culture and how to change traditional recipes to substitute herbs and spices for salt.

For older people who love salty snacks, Living Health 360 recommended using lemon juice to replace salt when cooking and seasoning. The fruit's tart citrus flavor is popular in Mediterranean cuisine, especially for seasoning meat, fish, salad and vegetables. Other flavors that are suggested to cure the craving for salt are shallots, seaweed flakes and fresh garlic. Additionally, TIME Magazine reported on a study that showed people preferred a smaller quantity of salt on bread samples if oregano was added in its place. 

Guilt-free sweetness
Seniors who have an undeniable sweet tooth don't need to deprive themselves of that pleasure to stay healthy. Often people decrease sugar intake with artificial sweeteners, but according to BJC HealthCare, you can reduce a meal's sugar content by up to 50 percent by adding sweet-tasting spices instead. recommended using fresh ground cinnamon as a sweetener in warm beverages like coffee and tea. The article references a book called "The Thin Commandments" by Stephen Gullo, which says cinnamon restores blood sugar levels while enhancing satiety with the enhanced flavor. Cloves, nutmeg and allspice have somewhat similar flavors and go well with cinnamon. Other spices that are recommended to use for sweetness are vanilla and ginger. Try herbs such as mint leaves and sweet basil for alternate flavors.