Compared to those with healthy blood pressure (BP) levels, hypertension sufferers are more likely to hanker for salty snacks, suggests a small study from Brazil. But adding oregano to food options led the salt lovers to select lower-sodium offerings, the study shows.
When offered bread samples containing either high, moderate, or low concentrations of salt, people with hypertension showed a preference for the samples with the highest salt content, the study shows. (On the other hand, people with BP levels in the “normal” range tended to prefer the low-salt or moderately salted samples.) But when the study team added oregano to the bread samples in a follow-up experiment, both study groups showed a reduced preference for salt.
Despite years of research linking high sodium consumption with hypertension, there’s not much evidence that people with high BP crave salt more than others. And despite this new study, the links between your “salt tooth” and your blood pressure are still open for debate, says Dr. Dominic Sica of the American Society of Hypertension. “This study was very small, and its findings are preliminary,” Sica says. “A lot more research is needed before I’d use these findings to inform my advice to patients.”
Sica adds that reducing salt is not necessarily advisable for everyone—even those with elevated blood pressure. “Salt restriction is not one size fits all,” he says. “And advice on salt intake needs to be patient-specific.” He recommends talking to your doctor about the proper amount of salt for your diet.
That said, for people who’ve been told to cut back on salt, adding oregano (or other spices) to your food may provide a painless way to trim sodium from your diet, the study authors write. (Research backs them up: Learning how to substitute herbs and spices for salt can help you trim nearly 1,000 mg of sodium a day from your diet, suggests research from the University of California, San Diego.)