Spice Up Your Health

A spice is a seed, bud, fruit, root, bark, or other substance primarily used for seasoning or coloring food. Available either fresh or dried, the flavor of a spice is derived in part from volatile oils that oxidize or evaporate when exposed to air. Grinding a spice greatly increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation and thus, flavor is maximized by storing a spice whole and grinding when needed. Many spices have antimicrobial properties, and can contribute significant portions of micro-nutrients to your diet. Some even contain more disease-fighting antioxidants.


CINNAMON.  Perhaps one of the most popular spices used, cinnamon has been brought up in the media recently for its potential ability to regulate blood sugar levels, lowering the risk for diabetes.  In addition, as little as 1 teaspoon has been shown to have the antioxidant power of ½ cup of blueberries! The unique smell, color, and flavor of cinnamon is due to the oily part of the tree that it grows from. The health benefits of cinnamon come from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. This bark contains several special compounds which are responsible for its many health promoting properties- including Cinnamaldehyde, Cinnamic acid, and Cinnamate.


2.  GARLIC.  Although its effects on our breath are widely known, less is known about the potential health benefits of garlic consumption.  Garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds, the most notable one being Allicin. Studies have linked Allicin to potential benefits in antibacterial and antiviral activity, as well as possible decreases in blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Try roasting a head of garlic with a drizzle of olive oil for a creamy spread or topping for meats and vegetables. Garlic helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold. High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). Garlic seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and ageing. Garlic was shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms.


TURMERIC.  It is responsible for the deep yellow colour of mustards and curry powders, and is currently being extensively researched as an anti-cancer food.  Rich in antioxidants, it has been studied as a treatment for depression, arthritis, cancer, and psoriasis, with promising results. Those with gallstones or bile obstructions should exercise caution however, as turmeric can increase the production of bile. Try adding it to egg salad for a nice yellow hue and pinch of flavor. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant,unfortunately, Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of Curcumin. Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with a fatty meal. Chronic inflammation is known to be a contributor to many common Western diseases. Curcumin can inhibit many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects. It neutralizes free radicals on its own, then stimulates the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain. Curcumin leads to several changes on the molecular level that may help prevent and perhaps even treat cancer. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease.  Many studies show that Curcumin can help treat symptoms of Arthritis and is in some cases more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs. A study in 60 depressed patients showed that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression.


4. CAYENNE PEPPER. Used to spice up all kinds of meals, cayenne pepper is a member of the chili pepper family, and rich in the health promoting compound Capsaicin. Capsaicin has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects related to treating aching pain associated with headaches or osteoarthritis.  It may also help control hunger pangs and boost the metabolism due to its spicy nature, which can aid those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Try sprinkling cayenne pepper and cinnamon on sweet potato fries for the perfect sweet-spicy combination. The Capsaicin in cayenne peppers may help reduce your hunger, helping you eat less throughout the day. Capsaicin has powerful pain relief properties. Cayenne pepper benefits are numerous and effective; it’s used to help digestion, including heal upset stomach, slow intestinal gas, stop stomach pain, cure diarrhea and as a natural remedy for cramps. It’s also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels – including to improve poor circulation, reverse excessive blood clotting, lower high cholesterol and prevent heart disease.


GINGER.  Ginger has long been used as a traditional natural remedy for many different ailments, and is being researched further in hopes of discovering other optimal health advantages.  It is an excellent treatment for nausea and vomiting associated with travel sickness, pregnancy, and even hangovers. Ginger’s other health benefits include pain relief, cholesterol decreases and as a powerful decongestant. Try adding fresh grated ginger to sauteed vegetables, bread stuffing or salad dressings. Of the 115 different chemical components found in ginger root, the therapeutic benefits come from gingerols, the oily resin from the root that acts as a highly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Garlic, ginger and onions all have an anti-blood-clotting ability, yet when they’re eaten together they’re a powerful mainstay against heart attacks and stroke.


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