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Add Herbs and Spices to Food For a Flavorful, Healthier Diet

“Spices and herbs have a meaningful role to play in bringing flavor to the forefront of today’s health and wellness conversations,” professor of medicine Johanna Dwyer said.

Spices and herbs make healthy food more tasty, reduce the need for more sodium and fat and help people feel full sooner than a diet devoid of these flavors.

There is evidence supporting these claims: a John Hopkins study found that behavioral interventions, including those that incorporated adding spices and herbs to food, led to lower sodium intake than those who did not have any behavioral intervention. Significantly, the herbs and spices intervention group on average consumed on average 966 mg/day of sodium less than the group that did not receive the intervention.

Further, herbs and spices help enhance metabolism by increasing energy expenditure, reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as triglycerides, and increase insulin sensitivity by regulating blood sugar levels, studies show.

A study found that culinary amounts of red pepper made adults feel full sooner and raised energy expenditure in adults. Red pepper could also help in weight management, researchers suggest.

There is a need to incorporate spices and herbs into public health discourse on food and nutrition policy, experts said.

“It will take all of us working together – from scientists to chefs and product developers to policy makers – before we can really begin to improve public health through flavorful eating,” said Dwyer.

Written by ECH health library volunteer Varsha Tickoo, MPH. She blogs at

There are tons of cookbooks available for your perusal in the health library at El Camino hospital. You can also make an appointment with a registered dietitian and come in to the library to discuss your personal health goals. Call 650-940-7210 or email for more information. 

This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.