Last week I shared the not so good things about conventional spices and some things to be aware of when purchasing spices and blends from the store or better yet buy handcrafted blends from a trusted source. This week I’d like to dive into some herbs and spices that are beneficial. Interested in spicing up your health?
Let’s look at some of my favorites. We will also explore how this benefits you and some fun ways in which to use them.
Cayenne Pepper and the heat factor in chilies is brought on by capsaicin, a substance that makes peppers hot. Highly therapeutic, the substance helps relieve aches and soreness. It’s even an active ingredient in some over-the-counter pain relieving creams. Other medical benefits include improved circulation, heart health and helping fight prostate cancer and ulcers. It may lower the risk of skin and colon cancers; studies show it also helps people eat fewer calories. Try hot pepper on pizza or in pasta adds a spicy kick to foods like vegetables, tuna and turkey.
Fennel dates to the times of the Ancient Greeks. Fennel is high in calcium, which is essential for the healthy growth of bones and teeth and rich in niacin, which helps to turn food into energy. Fennel is also high in vitamin C, which helps to promote a strong immune system and is an excellent source of dietary fiber and iron, which help to keep your metabolism and digestive tract running smoothly. Fennel is also a natural appetite suppressant and can also help detoxify and exfoliate the skin. This peppery plant can be served raw or cooked, but the highest nutritional value comes from consuming fennel leaves raw in salads. It can also be steamed with other greens or used in stir fry and fish recipes.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tropical evergreen tree and has one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice. The spice has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels, alleviate nausea and increase sensitivity to insulin as an aid in fat burning. It’s also a good source of manganese, iron and calcium. Cinnamon also kills bacteria, so the next time you get a cut, you can sprinkle the spice on the wound. Just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon daily lowers blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes. While cinnamon is an incredibly healthy and nutritious spice, the most common uses are coffee, cookies, muffins and desserts. But there are healthier ways to reap the benefits of this magical spice: pour it over oatmeal, yogurt, applesauce or cottage cheese, stir it into peanut butter or protein shakes and sprinkle it on sweet potatoes or carrots.
Ginger in its whole form is a tree root. This underground stem is excellent for treating upset stomachs, gas and bloating, sore throats and colds in addition to other conditions, such as arthritis and motion sickness. Ginger can stop nausea and may also relieve heartburn and bloating. This spice can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and generally reduce your risk of heart disease. A spicy herb that is used in both sweet and savory dishes, ginger can be sliced, grated, sugared or eaten like candy. Ginger is staple in many baked goods and Asian dishes and can also be consumed as a tea, which can help ease an upset stomach. Add it to your diet by dipping a whole-grain roll in olive oil instead of butter. Then add a sprinkle of sage and black pepper. Try adding a few slices of fresh ginger to stir-fries or salad dressings. It’s a favorite of mine fermented or added to kombucha.
Turmeric contains an active component called curcumin, which may stop cancer from spreading and help prevent type 2 diabetes. Many claim that this bright orange-yellow spice provides pain relief equal or better to over-the-counter remedies such as ibuprofen. Turmeric is also being investigated for its potential benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. An incredibly powerful antioxidant, turmeric contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties while helping to digest fats quickly. The spice can be added in pinches to a variety of foods including meats and salads, making it easy to consume. Curries and sauces are also great bases for turmeric.
Oregano has antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic properties. Its oil and leaves are used medicinally in treating cough, fever, congestion, body-ache and other illnesses. Use it as a seasoning in stews, pizzas and tomato-based sauces. Whenever possible, opt for fresh oregano leaves, which can enhance the flavor of salads and soups. Fabulous base for many great Italian seasoning blends and dressing mixes.
Basil A popular herb used to season sauces, soups, salads and pasta dishes, basil is known to have exceptionally powerful antioxidant properties that can protect the body from premature aging, common skin issues and some types of cancer. The herb contains plant pigments that shield your cell structures from oxygen and radiation damage and can be applied to wounds to help prevent bacterial infections. Basil is an easy addition to any diet. Toss a few basil leaves into your favorite dish for a fresh burst of flavor or use whole leaves and tomato slices to make a flavorful salad. It’s also often used as the foundation of a great pesto, which I love on pizza.
Nutmeg contains antibacterial compounds that may help fight listeria, E. coli, and salmonella, per research. Try nutmeg in soups or chicken dishes or on sweet potatoes.
Cumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may help stop tumor growth. Try cumin in tacos, or use it as a rub on meats or in chili and is excellent with black beans.
Peppermint is a great source of vitamin C and A and can help soothe indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. Here’s how you can add it to your diet: Puree 2 tablespoons fresh mint with 1/2 cup yogurt or ricotta cheese. Serve with berries. This beautiful scent is an excellent essential oil used for helping those who suffer from headaches and migraines.
Garlic destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells, says Karen Collins, RD, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. “Studies suggest that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits.” Let garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes after chopping and before cooking so the active form of the protective phytochemicals develops. Sauté fresh garlic over low heat and mix with pasta, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese.
As you can see, there are many wonderful benefits, other than the pure pleasure of our taste buds with these chosen herbs and spices.
Do you have a favorite herb, spice or remedy that others could benefit from? If so, please share in the comments below and let’s help each other.
To your health,
Holistic Wellness Mentor
Some of the sources were from FITNESS magazine and Men’s Health.