London - Teaching people how to flavour food with spices and herbs helps cut their salt intake, a study found.

Volunteers were first given a low-sodium diet for four weeks during which time researchers provided all foods.

In the second phase, roughly half of the 55 volunteers were given advice on spices and lessons about food and told to reduce their salt intake. The other half were left to their own devices to do the same.

The researchers found that in the first phase, sodium intake decreased from 3 450mg a day to an average 1 656mg a day.

In the second phase, sodium intake increased in both groups, but those who received the spice and herb lessons consumed an average 966mg a day of sodium less than the group that didn’t. Excess salt is a major contributor to high blood pressure. UK intake remains above the target level of 6 000mg a day.

Cheryl Anderson, author of the study at the University of California San Diego, said education about tasty alternatives to sodium could help individuals reduce their salt intake.

A spokesman for Blood Pressure UK said it advised people not to add salt when cooking, and this includes things such as soy sauce, curry powders and stock cubes. He said extra flavour could be provided with herbs and spices, and from seasonings like chilli, ginger, lemon or lime juice.

The UK government estimates reducing salt intakes by one gram will save at least 4 147 preventable deaths every year. - Daily Mail