Spice Up Your Life for Better Health

Another piece I had on my OB (original blog) with a few updates on timing.

Ok, so it’s cliche, but for a lot of cultures spice is a part of life. Plus, new research from Penn State shows that adding spices to your meals could have positive health benefits – not to mention making those bland American dishes tastier.

I heard a story on NPR about spices and how certain spices can help cut the risk of a high-fat meal. Note: meal, not diet.

The research looks to have studied spices often used in Indian dishes, curries for example. They did open the segment with turmeric milk.They also chose “bold amounts” of other common household spices.spices_in_ahmedabad

It’s good news for those of us who love a rich curry made with lots of turmeric or bold amounts of garlic and oregano. During the study, they used a blend that included these spices, as well as paprika, rosemary and ginger.

The research showed the spices cut triglycerides in the blood. (NPR story here)

The story got me to thinking about what other spices may have health benefits and what those health benefits might be.

5 Healthy Spices and Herbs

Cinnamon can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol in people with type-2 diabetes.

Suggested Uses: add a teaspoon or two to Greek yogurt, steel cut oats, or even your coffee. Tossing it in smoothies is another great option.

Turmeric contain curcumin which can inhibit cancer cell growth. The study above also shows implications of lowering triglycerides.

Suggested Uses: enhance store bought curries or toss a teaspoon in when cooking rice, quinoa or other grains. Or you could try the turmeric milk mentioned above. Turmeric is also an ingredient in many masala powders.

Chili Peppers contain capsacin which offers medical benefits such as pain relief and improving heart health. Studies also link capsacin to fighting prostate cancer and stopping ulcers.

Suggested Uses: add chili peppers to bean and rice dishes, chilis, stir fries, and any other recipe that needs a little kick.

Ginger helps decrease motion sickness, settle uneasy stomachs, and reduce nausea; it may also provide pain relief and the swelling associated with arthritis.

Suggested Uses: candied ginger or crystalized ginger – which can be found at your local health store – is a quick, easy option for motion sickness. Side note: my son suffered car sickness, I tried ginger candy, it seemed to help. Ground ginger can be sprinkled on sweet potatoes and carrots, in baking recipes, stir fries or on fish.

Oregano has been found to contain the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.

Suggested Uses: Top soups, pizza, salads, or pastas with a bit of chopped or dried oregano. It can also be added to pizza or pasta sauce. Fresh oregano is best for providing antioxidant benefits.

Other Spices

While this is a short list I hope it’s provided some insight in to the health benefits of spices.

Another benefit of spicier dishes is that spices and herbs pack a flavor punch without all the calories.

Sure, curries contain coconut milk and a lot of these would be paired with extra virgin olive oil, but in moderation the healthy fats of those two combined with the health benefits of the accompanying spices are well worth learning a new recipe or two.

If you’re in the Tampa/St. Pete area there are several health stores that offer bulk spices, which means you can select as much or as little of each spice you’d like to try rather than purchasing 6oz of a spice you’re uncertain about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this.It’s a great way to try new flavors without worrying about waste.

What are your favorite spices and herbs?

What are your go-to recipes that pack in a lot of flavors?

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Injury Prevention in 4 Poses

I’ve been talking and thinking a lot about injury prevention recently. Not shockingly, my tendency is toward preventing running injuries, but with clients of all persuasions (and interests) it’s a good all-around topic.

What follows are four yoga poses completed with light weights for a bit of a challenge. I found this gem by Sage Rountree in a Runner’s World article several years ago and it’s still timely. Yoga + strength training is a great combo to mix up your workouts.

Start with lighter weights than you would for traditional strength training, then increase reps and/or weight as you get comfortable with the routine.

Horse Pose + Lateral Raise 

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What It Works: opens hips; strengthens legs, arms, and shoulders

How It’s Done: Stand with feet wide apart, legs turned out at 45 degrees, light weights in both hands. Exhale while bending knees (think wide squat, do not lean forward). Raise arms to the side then overhead in a smooth motion as you squat. On inhale, lower weights and straighten legs.

How Many: 10 reps

Knee Lift to Backward Lunge

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What It Works: Improves balance and hip mobility; strengthens back

How It’s Done: Stand with feet together. On inhale, lift right knee and curl left arm, press right arm back. On exhale, lunge back with right leg and alternate arms (curl right arm, press left arm back). Inhale and swing back through to a knee raise; exhale and step back into a lunge.

How Many: 10 reps, each leg

Half Chair to Chair

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What It Works: Strengthens thighs, core, triceps, and shoulders

How It’s Done: Stand with feet together. On inhale, lower your hips and raise arms overhead. On exhale, lean forward and lower arms. Inhale again and extend arms back past your hips. Exhale again and squat deeper. Return to start.

How Many: 10

Warrior III (My personal favorite)

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What It Works: Strengthens glutes, hip flexors, and upper back

How It’s Done: Stand with feet together. On inhale, raise arms to shoulder height in front. Exhale and shift weight to right leg, lean forward, and slowly riase your left leg behind you. Inhale and return to standing. Switch legs, repeat.

How Many: 10 reps

This is a simple routine you can add at the gym, at home, or in the park if you have a couple of hand weights or water bottles. Honestly, I always see people suggest water bottles and canned goods as light, home weights but I’ve never tried it. You do you though. Whatever works.

Finally, you HAVE to Google Horse Yoga. I was searching for pose images and it’s a bizarre gold mine. This one’s pretty.

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