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?