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The Spice of Life

July 16, 2010

(photo via Hashir)

Spices have been on our minds at Oldways (aren’t they always?).  Recently, we’ve been writing a lot about them, specifically about how they are an essential part of the Mediterranean Diet and how they can add a cultural identity to dishes.   A dish can be transformed into one that is Greek or Italian or Turkish, just by changing the herbs and spices used!  In addition to flavor and taste, research has shown that some culinary herbs and spices provide health benefits, especially providing antioxidants — known to reduce inflammation, one of the first indicators of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. But more about that next week…

We’re also really excited about dreaming up ways to get people to use herbs and spices more often — particularly as a way to reduce the amount of salt we use.  Now I LOVE salt, but I also know that too much of anything is usually not a good idea.   Longtime Oldways  friend Frank Sacks, MD, at the Harvard School of Public Health, was just on Nightline a few weeks ago, talking about how important it is to reduce the amount of salt in the diet.  Here’s a quick summary of Frank’s interview, but I highly recommend making the click and watching the whole piece.

Frank Sacks, MD

Speaking with the reporter, Frank spooned out grams of salt, explaining that with each added spoonful 10,000 more people would be dying each year (!). The Nightline piece also explained that you won’t have to forgo flavor by decreasing your salt intake. Gordon Hamersley, chef and owner of Hamersley’s Bistro, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston, is living proof of this. A year or so ago, after dining at Hamersley’s, Frank talked with Gordon about the amount of salt  in the food he served.   Since then, Gordon hasn’t stopped using salt, but has reduced the amount of salt he (and his cooks) use every night at the restaurant.  To test, Gordon prepared wild salmon for Frank and Jeremy — one with the old amount of salt, and the second, with the new amount of salt he currently uses.   It was startling — the new version was more than salty enough. The old version was WAY too salty.

This will be part of a big push at Oldways in the next year: Use more interesting, flavorful, fun, new herbs and spices — for flavor and for health, and to help reduce the amount of salt you add to your food.

– Sara
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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 1:20 pm

    Why is not herbs and spices part of the USDA food pyramid?
    I think they should include them somehow as there are lots of benefits. People around the world have been using them for hundreds of years.

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