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Want to Eat Less Salt? Try Adding Pepper

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Most Americans consume well over the daily recommended intake of sodium (hello, packaged and restaurant foods), but turning up the heat on your meals may help you get by with less, according to the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

Among 606 adults, those who preferred spicy foods tended to consume less salt in their diets and had lower blood pressure numbers than those with an aversion to chili-laced foods. The researchers found that areas of the brain stimulated by salt and capsaicin—the chemical that gives chili peppers their fiery kick—overlap, and that eating foods punched up with chilies increases brain activity in areas also activated by salt.

This extra oomph likely tricks your brain into perceiving that a dish is more salty, so keep that bottle of sriracha or Tabasco handy if you want to enjoy less-salty food and discourage your blood pressure from boiling over.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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