I often talk about the antioxidant benefits of fruits and vegetables. But another great way to infuse your food with anti-aging and disease-fighting nutrients is through herbs and spices! These food “enhancers” also enhance your life, packing a lot of vitamins, minerals and health benefits in just a pinch. I rounded up the latest research to help you Spice Up Your Health:
To reduce inflammation: Inflammation is a key contributor to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and joint pain, so reducing inflammation is important to your health. According to a study cited in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the herbs and spices that best reduce or suppress inflammation and protect against DNA damage are:
Of all the spices listed above, turmeric is a health superstar! That’s because it contains curcumin, an antioxidant compound found in the root of the turmeric plant. Years of studies continue to show that turmeric helps to:
• Protect brain function
• Reduce the risk of memory loss
• Aid digestive and cardiovascular health
• Improve the immune system
• Prevent the growth of certain cancer cells
• Improve liver function (your body’s natural detoxifier.)
• Reduce cholesterol level
• Reduce joint pain and improve flexibility (especially in arthritis sufferers)
• Serve as a natural antibiotic, inhibiting the growth of bacteria
What’s the best way to get all the health benefits of turmeric? Scientists note that combining black pepper with turmeric increases the amount of curcumin your body can absorb. (India and Thai recipes often contain both!) So mix the two spices when you’re cooking with turmeric! (See recipes below.)
It’s important to know which spices do what! Below are my favorite spices, listed by health benefit:
➢ To lower blood sugar: Cinnamon. ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day can lower your triglycerides and blood sugar.
➢ To get well faster: Garlic. Fresh garlic or garlic powder does more than add great flavor; garlic is a natural antibiotic, so if you are around people who are sick, or you feel under the weather, add a little extra to your recipes! To get the greatest benefits, chop garlic and let it sit for 15 minutes before cooking. (This lets the active form of phytochemicals develop, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.)
➢ To relieve an upset stomach and reduce pain from arthritis: Ginger. Use fresh ginger in recipes and smoothies; dried as a tea (particularly good for stomach distress) or in an extract form, available at health food markets.
➢ To increase your body’s antioxidant activity: Oregano. According to a study by the USDA, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of the 27 fresh herbs the organization tested.
➢ To help prevent memory loss: Sage. (Sage tea also soothes sore throat pain.) As noted earlier, turmeric is also an excellent memory protector.
➢ To increase mental clarity: Rosemary. (Rosemary also fights food-borne bacteria.)
➢ To boost your metabolism: Red Chili Pepper.
Yes, it's a temporary boost, but chili pepper can also help you feel more satiated.
➢ To improve mood (and help alleviate PMS symptoms): Saffron. Steep in hot water for a "saffron tea" or use it to season soup, quinoa or brown rice.
➢ To inhibit breast-cancer cell growth: Parsley. According to a study from the University of Missouri, add 1 to 2 teaspoons a day.
➢ To enhance flavor healthfully, try:
• Coconut Aminos, a great replacement for soy sauce.
• Tahini, a great source of calcium! Tahini is made from ground sesame and has a consistency similar to almond butter. It makes an excellent dip for veggies and a tasty spread for crackers/rice cakes. You’ll find it in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store.
Spicing up your diet is an easy way to enhance your life and add flavor to your foods without adding calories, fat, sugar or sodium. I will post recipes this week incorporating these immune boosting spices!
Source: Crave Marketing and Nutrition, 3/2015