Spice Up Your Life (With Spices!)

Spices add flavor to foods and can help reduce the need for added salts in your cooking.  Spices can also be utilized as disease-fighting warriors. Here are some key spices and their benefits:

Ginger’s active ingredient is gingerol, a compound that’s thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and may help to relieve pain.  Many people, especially pregnant women, find relief from digestive issues and motion sickness with ginger.  Research has revealed that ginger is an effective anti-inflammatory, which may benefit those suffering from heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.  Ginger can be used freshly sliced or ground, dried and ground, candied, or pickled.  Ancient Asian cultures use it as a soothing ginger tea.

Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory that many studies find to be as effective as over the counter medications used to treat inflammation.  The spice has been effective in fighting inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerated colitis, rheumatoid cystic fibrosis and some types of cancers.  Turmeric has a yellow appearance, but can be added to oatmeal, rice dishes, egg/tuna/chicken salad, curries, legumes and sauces.

Cinnamon is brimming with anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties.  It may also boost brain function.  Cinnamon is important to people dealing with diabetes due to its ability to help manage blood sugar levels.  A study in Diabetes Care found that eating one to six grams of cinnamon daily significantly reduced blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.  Cinnamon can be used in cooking ground or in sticks, added to oatmeal, curries, rice, tea and desserts. I mix it with hot water and a touch of honey 30 minutes before I eat food to stoking metabolism.

Oregano is an excellent antioxidant, rich in phytonutrients and is 42 times more potent antioxidants than apples.  Oregano is an integral spice in Italian dishes, used fried or fresh.

Sage is another effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.  It contains flavonoids, phenolic acids and has a unique ability to prevent oxygen-based damage to cells, and research has found it to be effective in fighting rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis.  Fresh or dried, sage is delightful on pork, chicken, with eggs, vegetables, in salads and in soups.

Red chili peppers are the source for cayenne pepper.  They contain capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound that helps with pain relief.  Red chili peppers can also help clear congestion by clearing mucus from the lungs and nose, helps boost immunity, prevents stomach ulcers by killing bacteria and can help reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

The last spice to include in your food plan is unexpected; it’s parsley.  Thought of often as a plate garnish, or just to add color.  Parsley has the ability to fight cancer.  Animal studies have shown it can inhibit tumor formation, particularly in the lungs.  It is grown in flat or curly varieties.

Many varieties of spices can be grown in different regions in the ground or in pots, or can be purchased at most groceries.  I recommend that you buy new containers if you choose to use the dried varieties.  I choose to buy organic when using fresh.  Keeping the bottom stems of many types will allow you to store it longer on your counter or refrigerator.


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