Trying to Cut Back on Your Salt Consumption? Add a Bit of Heat to Your Meals.

Chili Pepper
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Though the proper amount of salt we should be getting each day has recently come up for debate—a recent study said that a low-sodium diet may not help everyone—the American Heart Association says that sodium should be limited to about 2,300mg (or about one tsp) per day for an adult male. And multiple studies still link high salt intake to increased risk of heart failure and obesity.

To limit your sodium intake just up your consumption of spicy foods, says a new study published in the journal Hypertension. For the investigation, researchers surveyed more than 600 people for their preferences on salty or spicy flavors, and then linked those predilections to their blood pressure. They found that those into heat had lower blood pressure numbers and consumed less salt overall than those who didn’t like spicy stuff. A brain scan of all participants also showed that the spicy and salty regions intersected, indicating that those who prefer hot foods may have an increased sensitivity to salt, and therefore avoid it.

“If you add some spices to your cooking, you can cook food that tastes good without using as much salt,” said lead study author Zhiming Zhu, M.D., professor and director of the Department of Hypertension and Endocrinology at the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China. “Yes, habit and preference matter when it comes to spicy food, but even a small, gradual increase in spices in your food may have a health benefit.”