Ah, spices! Known for adding flavor, warmth, color, and variety to our food, science has now shown that many of our favorite spices hold potent health-promoting properties as well.
The benefits of spices include blood-glucose regulation, immune system support, and anti-oxidant power. Spices are also a great way to replace salt, sugar, and other fillers in recipes. Here are just a few common spices, suggestions for use, and some of their central health benefits:
Ginger: Fragrant and spicy, powdered and fresh ginger is popularly used as a spice in Asian and Caribbean cuisines. Ginger has also been used for centuries in folk medicine. We now know that ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, may benefit pain from osteoarthritis and can calm motion sickness, nausea and upset stomach. Developing research suggests ginger may benefit those with heart disease and diabetes.
Try chopping peeled, fresh ginger with garlic into veggie stir fry’s. Ginger is great is soups, with fish, and can also be found in many curry powders, in ginger tea, and of course gingerbread and ginger snap cookies!
Cinnamon: Pungent and sweet, cinnamon is a very popular spice in baking. There are two main types of cinnamon: Cassia and Ceylon. Though cassia is the most common form, Ceylon cinnamon is the safer choice if you want to eat cinnamon frequently in larger amounts (1 teaspoon or more a day). Ceylon cinnamon is associated with the potential for managing cholesterol and blood sugar levels in type 2 Diabetes.
Try sprinkling cinnamon onto your morning oatmeal/cereal, coffee. Cinnamon in a perfect complement to sweet potatoes, and can be mixed into peanut butter and eaten with sliced apples, cinnamon, or whole-grain toast. Cinnamon sticks add great flavor to soups and stews!
Oregano: Warm, aromatic, and classically Italian, many are surprised to learn the special benefits oregano may hold: Oregano contains compounds with some anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties that can benefit skin conditions, respiratory, and digestive health. Fun fact-Oregano is part of the Mint family!
Fresh or dried oregano is a great addition to vegetable, pasta and chicken dishes, marinades, and of course, pizza!
Check out fun facts about more spices and how to incorporate them into your diet in my August article featured in Health & Wellness Magazine here.
If you have serious health conditions, always speak with your doctor before incorporating new herbs and spices into your diet.