Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Amazing Health Foods Found in Your Spice Cabinet

While flavor alone is usually enough to get most cooks to use savory herbs and spices, now research is giving us even more reason to spice up our meals. Government and university studies have confirmed that many herbs and spices have substantial health benefits.
Who would have thought that oregano, ginger or cinnamon could have potent disease-fighting capabilities, or that chile peppers can help to prevent cancers, relieve pain, or lower cholesterol? In fact many spices have much higher levels of antioxidants, and more vitamins and minerals, than the foods we add them to.
Here are just a few of the "super-spices" that are probably taking up residence in your spice cabinet right now.
Due to its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids, oregano has some the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants of ANY food. Its antioxidant levels are several times those of blueberries, green tea, or oranges, for example. It's also a very effective antiseptic. Two of its prime chemical compounds, thymol and carvacrol, are powerful natural germ-fighters, used in products like Listerine and Gold Bond Powder.
If spices were doctors, cinnamon would be a general practitioner. For more than 1,000 years, it has been recognized as a digestive aid, painkiller, and antiseptic. In addition, recent studies have confirmed its ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, improve brain function, and even to help control blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes. Plus, it's loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.
Another spice with far-ranging health benefits is ginger, used for centuries as an effective digestive aid, painkiller, and germ-fighter. Studies have shown that its anti-inflammatory benefit may prove useful in fighting heart disease, reducing cholesterol, battling several types of cancers, reducing the effects of Alzheimer's disease and relieving the pain of arthritis. And, its high level of antioxidants can protect our cells from all types of disease.
Chili Peppers
There are many varieties of chili peppers, the fiery spice used extensively in Mexican and Indian cooking. The heat is produced by a compound called capsaicin, recognized as a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Capsaicin is found in many topical products used to relieve muscle aches and joint pain. Not only does it relieve pain, but it also helps with weight loss. It does so by increasing the heat in our body, which increases metabolism and burns calories.
Recently capsaicin has been used in over-the-counter medications for sinus congestion. Chiles have also been thought to help control cholesterol, prevent cancer growth, and boost immune system function.
Turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory compound known as curcumin, which has been proven to be a highly effective pain-killer. Currently, a number of promising clinical trials are underway, studying the effects of curcumin on various diseases, including several different cancers, psoriasis, and Alzheimer's disease. Turmeric is also thought to provide some relief for inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and cystic fibrosis.
Parsley is the Rodney Dangerfield of this list - it just doesn't get the respect it deserves. Far more than just a garnish, parsley has important health benefits. The herb is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, & K, it's loaded with powerful antioxidants, and recent animal studies indicate that parsley shows great promise in its ability to neutralize the growth of cancer cells.
As research continues, we're sure to learn of more amazing benefits from the world of spices. In the meantime, it's good to know that what tastes so good is also so good for us.

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