We all know that spices are the secret to a tasty meal. However, apart from satisfying our taste buds, spices also provide an exceptionally wide array of health benefits – from lowering blood sugar levels to boosting immunity.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University say that more than 100 different types of spices are used in cooking in different parts of the world. Many of these spices are known for their therapeutic properties and are commonly used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
Let us now take a look at five amazingly healthy spices that you must add to your diet.
Probably the most commonly used spice in South Asian households, turmeric is a superfood known for its medicinal value and anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the main components in turmeric – curcumin – is a powerful antioxidant which can prevent oxidative damage by neutralizing the free radicals that can damage the healthy cells in your body and cause inflammation.
Studies show that regular intake of turmeric can lower the risk of a number of diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.
Studies also show that curcumin can boost your gut health, improve digestion, and lower the risk of inflammation induced diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Curcumin can also lower the risk of mental disorders like clinical depression and degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease by preventing the inflammation of brain cells. Research shows that people who consume turmeric regularly tend to show fewer signs of cognitive decline in their old age compared to those who do not consume it regularly.
How to Eat It: You can add a pinch of turmeric to pretty much any kind of vegetable and meat based dish you cook. You can add a spoonful of turmeric and pepper to a cup of warm milk and drink it. Better yet, you can take a dietary supplement which can provide you with the right amount of curcumin you need.
This sweet and fragrant spice is Mother Nature’s gift to diabetics. The active ingredient in cinnamon – cinnamaldehyde – stimulates the insulin receptors in your body and reduces post-meal insulin spikes significantly. Experts say that adding a spoonful of cinnamon to your meals, drinks, and desserts is an excellent way to keep your blood sugar levels in control.
It is also considered an excellent natural remedy for intestinal amebiasis and protozoan infections. Studies show that regular intake of cinnamon can kill harmful parasites in the intestine and improve gut health.
Cinnamon is also an effective anti-inflammatory agent and is known to reduce triglyceride levels in the blood when consumed regularly.
How to Eat It: You can sprinkle a spoonful of powdered cinnamon in yogurt, cereal, milkshakes, and smoothies. You can also add cinnamon to stews, chilis, and other spicy dishes.
Any list of healthy spices and herbs would not be complete without ginger. Known for its extremely potent anti-inflammatory properties, it has been used in traditional and alternative medicine in Asia for thousands of years.
Studies show that ginger is very effective in treating nausea caused by motion sickness, seasickness, morning sickness, surgery, and chemotherapy. It is rich in gingerols, which are powerful antioxidants that can protect your body from inflammatory damage.
Ginger is also a tried-and-tested natural remedy for pain management. It is particularly effective in treating the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Studies show that regular consumption of ginger can reduce muscle soreness, stiff joints, pain, and other such symptoms associated with arthritis to a great extent.
How to Eat It: A hot cup of ginger tea can be a great way to start your day. You can add finely chopped ginger to salads, stews, chilis, and stir-fried dishes. You can also add powdered ginger to lemonade, smoothies, baked goods, and desserts.
An integral part of the Mediterranean diet, garlic can boost heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases to a significant extent.
Studies show that regular consumption of garlic can reduce cholesterol levels – particularly LDL cholesterol – in the blood by up to 20%. It also reduces the risk of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – by acting as a vasodilator.
Research also shows that regular intake of garlic can lower your blood pressure levels considerably. In fact, adding garlic to your everyday diet or taking garlic supplementation can reduce your blood pressure levels just as effectively as taking beta-blockers.
How to Eat It: You can use finely chopped or ground garlic as a seasoning agent for any vegetable or meat based dish you cook. You can add it to soups and salads as well. If you are not a fan of the strong taste and smell, you can take garlic pills instead.
This flavorsome herb can not only keep your breath minty fresh all day, but can also improve your gut health. Studies show that mint can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improve digestive health.
Menthol, which is the active ingredient in mint, can relax the muscles in the colon and reduce bloating, flatulence, and pain – all of which are common symptoms associated with IBS.
Studies also show that mint can reduce post-surgery nausea – particularly in women – just as effectively as anti-nausea medications.
Mint can also improve your mood, sharpen your thinking, and boost your memory. So, if you ever feel low or depressed, a cup of peppermint tea is all you need to lift your spirits.
Fresh mint is rich in essential nutrients like vitamin A, iron, manganese, and folate and has practically no calories. So, you can add it to your dishes and beverages every day without worrying about gaining weight.
How to Eat It: You can add it to your tea, smoothies, lemonade, pesto, and salad.
Spicy Food – The Key to Good Health
The aforementioned spices, if consumed on a regular basis, can improve your health significantly. Apart from eating a healthy diet, make sure you drink plenty of water, exercise for at least 45 minutes a day, and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day.