On Your Health

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The Basics of Spices: Health Benefits

As you expand your cooking skills and explore new recipes and nutritious ideas, you might be curious about the spices and seasonings in your food. If you’re looking for ways to add some extra “oomph” to your dishes, along with added health benefits, here are eight spices that pack a major nutritional punch.

Curry Powder

This fragrant spice mix is primarily composed of turmeric, a spice that contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory ingredient. In addition, curry powder has been shown to aid in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and the reduction of Alzheimer’s symptoms, as well as boosting bone health, protecting the immune system from bacterial infections, and increasing the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body. While the ingredients in curry powder may vary, in addition to turmeric, it typically contains fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and/or mustard seeds.

Rosemary

With its fresh fragrance and appetizing flavor, rosemary is a popular spice in cooking. This fragrant spice is known to stimulate the immune system, increase circulation and improve digestion. Also, rosemary can increase the blood flow to your head and brain, which can improve concentration.

Oregano

One of the staple spices in any pantry, oregano is far from basic. With its warm and aromatic flavor, oregano can easily be used in a wide variety of food dishes. Stemming from the mint family, oregano has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is a rich source of Vitamin K and dietary antioxidants.

Cinnamon

Perhaps one of the most versatile of spices, cinnamon is known for its ability to bring both sweet and savory dishes to life. As an extra bonus, cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginger

Known for its ability to settle a stomach or calm seasickness, ginger is a spicy/sweet spice that can also reduce muscle pain and soreness, lower blood sugars and may lower cholesterol levels. Perhaps most surprising is that ginger has also been linked to improving reaction time and memory in a study of 60 middle-aged women. While research is still developing, it is believed that ginger can protect against age-related decline in the brain.

Nutmeg

Native to the islands near Indonesia, nutmeg is a delicate and slightly sweet spice that is used in a variety of cuisines and drinks. It has been shown to relieve pain, settle an upset stomach, strengthen cognitive function, detoxify the body, boost skin health and much more.

Cayenne Pepper

This spicy pepper has a kick in your mouth, but can also kick achy joints and muscles to the curb. Capsaicin is the substance that gives cayenne pepper its spicy taste, but it also is an active ingredient in many over-the-counter treatments for arthritis and muscle pain. In addition, cayenne pepper can boost your body temperature and help your body burn more calories. It’s hard to believe this potent pepper can do more, but it is also known for its ability to unclog a stuffy nose and reduce blood sugar levels.

Cumin

Cumin is a versatile spice used in Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern and Indian foods, and is known for its distinct warm flavor. Filled to the brim with nutrients like iron, manganese and other vitamins and minerals, cumin can protect against memory loss and the effects of stress on the body. Additionally, it has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial for diabetics.

If you haven’t cooked with these spices before, consider finding new ways to include them in your favorite meals – or step outside of your comfort zone and try a few new dishes. While it may not seem like you consume a high quantity of each spice, just a small amount is still a great way to provide your body with a boost in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

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