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From Cinnamon to Thyme: 8 Spices for Health

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April 12, 2013

It seems everywhere we turn, there’s another article touting the health benefits of spices. They’ve been around for thousands of years but the recent popularity of more “natural” health remedies and whole foods has made the health benefits of spices a subject on shows like  Dr. Oz  and in health magazines and internet articles.  Not only are spices loaded with health benefits, they are tasty and can add a gourmet flare to any meal. While they aren’t known to cure illnesses, science and research has suggested spices can help with certain conditions.

I’ve highlighted 8 of the healthiest and tastiest spices to incorporate into your diet. Whenever you can, chose organic spices grown without chemical fertilizers and sprays.

  • Rosemary – Delicious on potatoes or chicken, this spice is known to fight bacteria and enhance focus. It has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Not everyone is a fan of the flavor of rosemary but mixed with other spices, it becomes more palatable for many people.
  • Turmeric – This is readily available in supplement form or tea and, and of course, as a straight spice. The potent curcumin in the spice has possible benefits that include inhibiting tumors and having anti-inflammatory actions in the body. Turmeric has been shown to ease the pain of arthritis and is currently being studied for its potential help in heart  disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s as well.
  • Chili Pepper – The capsaicin in chili peppers is known to enhance metabolism (as well as make foods spicy and delicious). This may help boost fat burning as well as lower the risk of ulcers. It’s also said to help with arthritis, nerve pain caused by shingles or sciatica, and works to strengthen digestion.
  • Oregano – A delicious and popular spice on Italian food – it’s packed with plenty of health benefits too. Oregano oil is found to be antimicrobial and has a phytochemical that exhibits anti bacterial properties.
  • Ginger – Traditionally used to fight upset stomach aches (remember Mom giving you ginger ale to sip when you had an upset stomach) – ginger has also been used to relieve colds because it is rich in inflammation fighting compounds. It’s also currently being studied to see it’s effect on fighting muscle pain and osteoarthritis pain, where it seems to be effective.
  • Cinnamon – One of the family favorites around here, we use cinnamon liberally on toast, oatmeal and apples ( chop an apple, sprinkle with cinnamon and a bit of sugar, and microwave for a few minutes for a delicious healthy dessert). Cinnamon is said to  help regulate our blood sugar levels. Thought the jury is still out on this , there are other studies confirming it’s effectiveness in controlling mild blood sugar issues. Cinnamon also can help curb a sweet tooth when used in the place of sugar in tea or on fruit.
  • Thyme – like oregano, thyme oil has powerful anti-microbial properties and may help suppress inflammation.
  • Saffron – Saffron was traditionally used in rice and tea as a mood lifter. New research has shown that it may even help relieve the symptoms of PMS and mild depression.

While no spice is a substitute for medicine as prescribed, they certainly can’t hurt and definitely can make for some tasty meals. If you haven’t changed the spices in your spice rack recently, maybe now is the time. Cook your meals with an emphasis on adding new flavors and spices and reap the added health benefits.

photo credit: The Purple Foodie via photopin cc

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