Salt and pepper… the classic seasonings we add to nearly every meal. But what about the hundreds of herbs and spices just waiting to tantalize your tastebuds? Adding herbs and spices to dishes not only increases flavor, but could make you healthier, too!
Cardamom: One of the most popular spices in the popular “pumpkin spice”, cardamom is sweet, and can be quite pungent. Research has found that cardamom fights inflammation, helps to relieve an upset stomach, even prevents the growth of cancer cells!
Chili peppers: The capsaicin in chili peppers is responsible for their heat… and their health benefits. It helps to protect your blood vessels (assisting with cholesterol and blood pressure management) and can kick-start weight loss by boosting metabolism. Enjoy them fresh or dried.
Cinnamon: It’s not just a spice, it’s a super-food! Firstly, cinnamon is packed with antioxidants (forty one to be precise.) Cinnamon comes in at number 7 in a list of the world’s most antioxidant-rich foods.
Diabetics in particular can benefit from cinnamon. It helps to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. This contributes not only to lower blood sugar, but also helps to keep sugar levels steady over longer periods of time.
True cinnamon comes from one specific species — Cinnamomum verum. Other types of cinnamon come from a variety of different cinnamomum trees and are collectively known as cassia cinnamon.
True cinnamon is lighter in color, with a sweeter taste and more fragrant aroma than cassia cinnamon. True cinnamon is also more expensive. Due to this price difference, the most readily available variety of cinnamon is cassia. (True cinnamon and cassia cinnamon both contain the cinnamaldehyde and antioxidants responsible for health benefits.)
Cocoa: The health benefits of cocoa include relief from high blood pressure, cholesterol, constipation, chronic fatigue syndrome and various other illnesses. Cocoa can quicken wound healing, and help to improve cardiovascular function and brain health. It also possesses mood-enhancing properties and is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium.
Cocoa has also been shown to improve insulin resistance and help the body metabolize glucose. The antioxidant component of cocoa has been found to battle free radicals, reducing cell and tissue damage.
Research has suggested that cocoa’s flavanols (phytonutrients with antioxidant properties) may contribute to maintaining a healthy brain. These protective benefits could also positively affect learning and memory functions. Findings have also found that cocoa-based products enhance the flow of blood to the brain and have been shown to help improve the effects of cardiovascular disorders.
Garlic: Garlic has been extensively studied for its many health-giving abilities. Research is starting to suggest that it may even show promise for lowering blood sugar. A 2005 study which administered garlic orally to diabetic rats recorded significant decreases in blood glucose. Researchers also found that garlic can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increase insulin production.
Garlic also packs a serious immune-boosting punch. In one study, 146 people received either a placebo or a garlic extract supplement for 12 weeks; those individuals who were given the garlic were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Other studies have shown that people who eat more than six cloves of garlic per week have a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer and a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer. Amazing!
Ginger: Ginger is commonly found in Asian cuisine, and has been used for cooking and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. According to livestrong.com, ginger has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Ginger also has the ability to relieve an upset stomach and help to fight against the symptoms of a cold.
Turmeric: Turmeric is an excellent source of the antioxidant curcumin. Research has suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may be helpful in pain management, and prevention of cardiovascular issues. Additional studies have shown that eating small amounts of turmeric on a regular basis can slow or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s dementia, as well as, be helpful in lowering blood sugar and Hemoglobin AIC levels.