Spices and your health

Are you looking for a fun and flavorful way to not only boost your health but add some zest (and no calories, sodium or fat) to your food?   Look no further than your spice rack.  Spices can not only turn a blasé meal into a savory, full-flavored delectable delight but they also can enhance your health at the same time.

Here is a list of spices that regardless of whether you use them to create a culinary masterpiece or to target a certain medical condition, either way you come out a winner.

·         Chili pepper

Rich in vitamin A and with a unique ability to reduce pain, fights free radicals, lowers cholesterol, clears congestion and boosts immunity, this fiery spice does it all.  Add to this list chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin known to speed up metabolism to improve your body’s ability to burn fat.

·         Tumeric

A great deal of attention has been given to this special Indian spice and deservedly so. Tumeric’s special potent compound is curcumin, which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties found to manage diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and to relive pain of arthritis.  Add turmeric to a variety of dishes from scrambled eggs, cooking lentils with it or sprinkling it onto roasted vegetables.

·         Oregano

Typically used on pizza or salads, one teaspoon of dried oregano is an exceptional source of vitamin K, fiber and contains more antioxidants then what’s found in three cups of spinach.  In addition this Mediterranean spice is effective against bacteria by acting as an anti-bacterial agent.

·         Cinnamon

I’m sure everyone has a bottle of cinnamon on their spice rack.  This widely used spice has been found to benefit those with diabetes by helping to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking.  A source of manganese, cinnamon may also prevent blood clots, relieve indigestion and improve heart health.  It can easily be added to a variety of foods from sprinkling it on oatmeal, adding to a cup of coffee, chili, soups, hot tea or fruit smoothies.

·         Ginger

Best known for relieving motion or morning sickness, it also has been linked to reducing pain.  The potent chemical found in ginger is called gingerol and it works by reducing inflammation blocking nerve pathways that process pain.  Next time add some tangy freshness by using ginger to Asian stir-frys, a cup of tea or even meat dishes.

·         Garlic

Garlic is another go-to spice many of us daily.  It has a long list of health benefits ranging from its anti-inflammatory powers, boosts heart health, protects blood vessels from oxidative stress and inflammation and can even fight off colds.  Garlic is also a good source of the mineral selenium and of disease fighting flavonoids.  It has a wide range of uses from adding to salad dressings, marinades, sauces, vegetables, meats, soups, and stews.

·         Cocoa

Technically not a spice, cocoa can still be used like a spice to jazz up dishes while invigorating our health.  Whether we drink cocoa as a hot beverage or eat it in dark chocolate, both ways it can improve heart health.  One to two servings a week of high-quality dark chocolate (72% cocao or higher) lowers risk of developing heart failure and reduces risk of stroke.  It’s rich source of polyphenols and flavanols also protect the heart while cocoa has a higher antioxidant capacity than fruit juice.  Studies have even found cocoa to control inflammation-related diseases such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and Alzheimer’s.