February is American Heart Month so we thought it would be a good idea to share some of the benefits that spices have in helping prevent heart disease. 1 out of 4 deaths in America is caused by heart disease, resulting in 600,000 deaths every year. To give a little bit of perspective on how many people that is, Michigan Stadium at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is the largest stadium in the country, and seats roughly 110,000 people. You would have to fill that stadium to capacity nearly 6 times to account for all the people that die each year from heart disease. 715,000 Americans have heart attacks every year and 190,000 of those Americans suffered at least one heart attack previously. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America and eating healthier can help prevent heart attack, heart failure, stroke, arrhythmia, and high cholesterol, as well as non-heart-related health issues, like diabetes and certain cancers.
When we make our own seasoning blends, we control the amount of salt in each blend. We've been making a concentrated effort to scale back on where and how much salt we use, and even eliminate it all together when we can. Our Salt-Free page showcases the seasoning blends we've created that are completely salt-free. Bear in mind that the primary components of these blends--our raw spices--by nature don't contain any salt. You can always add salt later, but you can't take it away once it's in there.
Often times people think that because you are eliminating salt you are eliminating flavor; this doesn't have to be the case. As we've mentioned, we have a ton of terrific seasoning blends that taste great without salt. If you prefer individual spices, you can add them as you like to a dish to make up for the lack of salt. A great place to look for inspiration is in the Healthy Living section of The American Heart Association page, which will give you tips on how to cut back on sodium and recipes that can help you reduce salt and retain flavor in your food.
Allspice: Lean ground meats, stews, tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, cranberry sauce, gravies, lean meat
Basil: Fish, lamb, lean ground meats, stews, salads, soups, sauces, fish cocktails
Bay leaves: Lean meats, stews, poultry, soups, tomatoes
Caraway seeds: Lean meats, stews, soups, salads, breads, cabbage, asparagus, noodles
Cayenne Chile Powder: Eggs, ketchup, soup, pasta salad, DIY hot sauces
Chives: Salads, sauces, soups, lean meat dishes, vegetables
Cider vinegar: Salads, vegetables, sauces
Cinnamon: Fruits (especially apples), breads, pie crusts
Curry powder: Lean meats (especially lamb), veal, chicken, fish, tomatoes, tomato soup, mayonnaise
Dill: Fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish
Garlic (not garlic salt): Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
Ginger: Chicken, fruits
Mustard (dry): Lean ground meats, lean meats, chicken, fish, salads, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mayonnaise, sauces
Nutmeg: Fruits, pie crust, lemonade, potatoes, chicken, fish, lean meat loaf, toast, veal, pudding
Onion powder (not onion salt): Lean meats, stews, vegetables, salads, soups
Oregano: Roasts, grilled meats, sauces, vegetable bakes, stews, potatoes, rice
Paprika: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
Parsley: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
Rosemary: Chicken, veal, lean meat loaf, lean beef, lean pork, sauces, stuffings, potatoes, peas, lima beans
Sage: Lean meats, stews, biscuits, tomatoes, green beans, fish, lima beans, onions, lean pork
Savory: Salads, lean pork, lean ground meats, soups, green beans, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, peas
Thyme: Lean meats (especially veal and lean pork), sauces, soups, onions, peas, tomatoes, salads
Turmeric: Lean meats, fish, sauces, rice
Turmeric contains curcumin, which gives it its unique yellow color and is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. It can combat tumors and reduce the risks of sticky, clot-forming blood. Curcumin has also been found to help prevent heart failure by blocking the biochemical reactions involved in cardiac hypertrophy, inflammation and fibrosis. It's worth noting that adding black pepper to your turmeric can increase its bioavaliability by 1,000 times.
In World Wars I and II ginger became known as "Russian Penicillin" for the way that they used it to control infection, pus, and gastrointestinal disorders. This is because ginger is an excellent natural blood thinner, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent. This spice has been used as medicine dating back to the time of Hippocrates. Significant studies have been done studying ginger's effect on blood pressure. High blood pressure is a main factor in heart disease-related deaths.
Not only does cayenne add a kick to any dish, it also helps your body. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin which is a common ingredient in over-the-counter hot/cold creams used to alleviate muscle and joint pain. Through a thermogenic effect, capsaicin raises the body temperature and boosts circulation in the area where it's applied. What this means when you eat it is that it can help burn calories. It's also a rich antioxidant that reduces lipid oxidation and decreases platelet stickiness, which can help prevent clots.
Oregano is a staple in many of our Italian seasonings and dishes but its also really good for your heart. The antioxidants found in oregano are quadruple the amount that you would find in blueberries. It has been a staple of natural medicine for thousands of years and is even believed to help things such as acne and dandruff. Just a little bit of oregano in your meals can go a long way towards fighting those obnoxious free radicals.
Cinnamon has been shown to help keep cholesterol under control by lowering the amount of Low Density Lipids (LDLs) in the blood, the "bad" cholesterol that's prone to stick to the insides of blood vessels and cause circulatory problems like atherosclerosis. It also has vasodilatory properties, which means it can help dilate blood vessels, and wider blood vessels contribute to lower blood pressure.
We aren't going to claim that using these spices are a magic ticket to abundant health. Most importantly, we recommend talking to your doctor about how to modify your diet to keep yourself and your heart healthy. Heart disease is a major problem in this country and if using more spices in our meals can help prevent 1 out of 4 deaths then it is something worth looking at. For more information on heart health and ways to keep your body healthy, we encourage you to visit The American Heart Association's website.