Teri Mascuch has a deep investment in spreading the word that spices and herbs can be a valuable asset for people living with diabetes. For one, she’s the director of technical innovation, industrial, at McCormick & Co., a global leader in flavor. Mascuch helps drive new product development and programs that demonstrate how flavor can make it easier— and more enjoyable—to eat healthfully.
Mascuch also takes special interest in the health benefits of herbs and spices because she has diabetes herself. Relying on her insulin pump, healthy eating patterns and exercise to manage her type 1 diabetes, Mascuch has helped McCormick develop programs to assist other employees with diabetes.
She’s involved with the research-driven organization McCormick Science Institute (MSI), where she works with some of the country’s leading scientists on spice and herb-related research, including studies that show how adding spices and herbs to foods can help liking when reducing sodium, saturated fat and calories. Other published studies have suggested that certain spices, especially cinnamon, may be helpful in managing blood sugar levels.
Aggregate data (unidentified participants) from annual health screenings at McCormick reveal that a significant number of employees have diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in this country and one that significantly increases an individual’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Another 40 percent of employees tested in 2012 were considered to have prediabetes. This puts them at risk of developing diabetes which affects 86 million Americans and is considered a public health epidemic. McCormick Health & Wellness efforts decreased the number of employees with prediabetes to 32% in the 2013 annual health screening.
“I’m fortunate to work for a company that is not only helping to advance the science on how spices and herbs may benefit individuals with diabetes, they’re also providing tremendous support to its own employees who have diabetes and those who may be at risk of developing it,” said Mascuch, a food scientist and former nutritionist who serves as the chair of the board for the Maryland American Diabetes Association.
McCormick has created a special program called “Living Healthy with Diabetes,” with offerings that include free weight loss instruction, consultations with a certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian, culinary workshops and fitness classes. Programs like the “Spice Up Your Wellness Challenge” help incentivize employees to make positive lifestyle changes, with prizes awarded to participants.
Offered free to employees through the McCormick Health and Wellness Center, the Patients, Pharmacist Partnerships Program—or “P3” —provides one-on-one health coaching with pharmacists to help employees with diabetes, or their immediate family members, manage their condition. This is a program partnership with the University of Maryland.
McCormick has been a long-time supporter of the American Diabetes Association, including serving as sponsor of the annual Step Out and Tour de Cure events, which raise funds for research and education about healthy living with diabetes. These events also inspire people to build walking or cycling into their daily routines for better health. McCormick has also created healthy recipes to make it easier for individuals with diabetes to meet their goals, whether that’s tracking calories and carbs, or reducing sodium or fat.
“Through McCormick Wellness initiatives, we’re making sure our cafeteria and vending machines provide healthy options for employees, and we’re helping employees make healthy changes at home,” said Mascuch.
The common thread throughout all McCormick’s wellness activities is the message that a diet for diabetes control can be delicious and nutritious with the addition of spices and herbs. Mascuch herself recommends the “½ teaspoon” approach: adding a ½ teaspoon of herbs and spices at every meal to flavor food in a healthier way.
As an employee who regularly takes advantage of the wellness offerings, attends yoga or other exercise classes in the morning, and participates in P3, Mascuch understands the programs’ effectiveness firsthand.
She adds, “I think our programs definitely show that it’s fun, flavorful and very possible to live healthy with diabetes.”