Beat back bland food while keeping your BP in check

If you're like many of my patients, you're saving yourself tonight for a big day tomorrow.

Eat a light dinner now... and you can spend Thanksgiving enjoying all of the fixings.

But if you've struggled with high blood pressure, there's one thing you know you shouldn't reach for, even on a special occasion -- and that's the salt.

Now, it's true that everyone needs some salt... and that the mainstream sometimes places too much focus on eliminating salt altogether and getting your BP too low.

If hypertension has really become a problem for you, though, then you will have to keep an eye on that sodium intake.

Don't worry -- I'm not trying to ruin your favorite meal of the year by eliminating all the flavor. Because according to a new study, instead of reaching for the salt shaker, you might want to whip out a bottle of hot sauce.

It turns out that eating spicy foods can curb your cravings for salt -- and that, in turn, may help keep your BP in check.

In the study out of China, researchers surveyed about 600 adults to find out their preference for spicy flavors, their salt intake, and their BP numbers.

After they analyzed the data, it turned out that participants who preferred foods with a "hot kick" consumed less salt on average than those who avoided spice.

To understand why, the researchers used imaging techniques to see what happened in the participants' brains when they ate something with a lot of "heat."

Well, what do you know -- the spicy food increased brain activity in the very SAME areas that are known to light up when you eat salt!

That means spice satisfies your salty urge WITHOUT pumping you full of the sodium you get from the salt shaker.

And since eating high levels of sodium can elevate your BP, a lesser craving for salt could explain why those who loved spice the MOST had lower BP than those who liked it the LEAST.

In fact, the most ardent spice-lovers had systolic (top number) blood pressure that was 8mmHg lower than the spice-avoiders.

And that's not the only way that "scalding" your mouth can protect your ticker -- because a past study showed that regularly eating spicy foods can lessen your risk of dying of heart disease.

What's more, it can lower your chances of early death from ANY cause.

The theory is that spicy peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which is known to pack an anti-inflammatory punch. And, as you know, inflammation is at the root of a multitude of diseases.

Now, you don't have to bite into the hottest habanero you can find in order to reap the benefits. Try adding just a pinch of cayenne or chili powder to your turkey, yams, sweet potatoes, or other savory dishes. With that zing, you won't miss the salt one bit.

Or, follow the lead of our neighbors in Mexico and South America who sprinkle chili on sweet fruits like mango, papaya, and pineapple.