Cooking with herbs as a seasoning instead of salt helps lower blood pressure risk.

Given the American Heart Association’s estimation that one-in-three Americans will develop hypertension and most likely due to a high-sodium diet, Michigan State University Extension has released an interesting guide of alternative seasonings to salt.

In a press statement, the university says that when people begin to be conscientious about their salt intake, they may look for alternate ways to season food. “A better way to cut down on salt intake is to season with herbs. Herbs are not going to taste like salt, but they do provide flavors that can tempt your taste buds and make you wonder why you ever thought salt was so important.”

Herbs that make it onto the list — parsley, savory, sage, cilantro and basil, are not only there for their taste, but because of their health benefits for people with high blood pressure.

The leaves and roots of parsley are high in iron content and rich in vitamins A, B, C and trace minerals. Parsley adds color and aids digestion of the foods we eat and acts to prevent gas and bloating.

According one nutrition website, the leaves and shoots of savory (Satureja) “are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium.” Potassium “is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure,” while “manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.” Savory also contains pyridoxine, which helps reduce stress — a contributing factor to high blood pressure.

Among its many health promoting properties, fresh or dried sage herb is also rich in minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Cilantro, also known as leaf-coriander, is rich in flavonoid antioxidants, many vital vitamins and another good source of minerals like potassium. Cilantro lowered blood pressure in a tissue culture study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Researchers observed blood vessel-dilating and heart rate-lowering effects of the herb. In one animal study cilantro also lowered blood pressure by acting as a diuretic similar, though milder, to standard diuretic drug furosemide.

A study at Xinjiang Medical University found that an extract of basil reduced blood pressure in a similar way to medication. It’s thought that it affects levels of endothelins — proteins which constrict blood vessels.

Bottom line, Michigan University researchers say: “help yourself and your family make healthy choices by trying herbs with your meals and snacks to kick your habit of using salt!”

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