If you’re anything like me, you mindlessly sprinkle spices on your food every day: cinnamon in your oatmeal, basil in your pasta sauce, oregano on your pizza. There’s no doubt that spices add flavor and complexity to our meals – without them, food would be bland and monotonous. However, research has shown that they also have a number of surprising health benefits, and can aid in everything from weight loss to a good night’s sleep. Read on for 6 health benefits hiding in your spice rack (I saved the best for last)!
- Weight loss. According to a study conducted by the Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences in Iran (that’s a mouthful!), cumin could be a powerful aid in helping you shed those few extra pounds. While the sample size was small (only 88 women participated), the results were pretty impressive. Over a 3-month period, the ladies who consumed cumin lost more weight (3 pounds) and reduced their body fat by over 14% (the control group reduced by less than 5%). The researchers believe cumin helps in weight loss by increasing metabolism, even if it’s only temporary. It’s easy to incorporate this spice into your diet: think chili, tacos, guacamole – even eggs! Source: Prevention.
- Improve memory. Most people have a love/hate relationship with cilantro (I happen to love it!). This herb, commonly used in Mexican, Indian, and Asian inspired dishes may boost memory, according to a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Full disclosure – the study was done on rats, but stay with me! Not only did these cilantro-eating critters learn mazes faster, but they were more resilient to drugs that are known to cause memory loss (e.g., scopolamine, which stops the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, necessary for good cognitive function). Okay, you’d probably have to eat a ton of cilantro in order to notice any significant benefits, but sprinkling it on your chili certainly couldn’t hurt! Source: Huffington Post.
- Balance your blood sugar. Ahh, cinnamon – one of my favorite spices. It’s fabulous on oatmeal, with apples, and a welcome addition to savory dishes. It may surprise you to learn that cinnamon has notable effects when it comes to regulating blood sugar. Not only can this be helpful in preventing sugar crashes, but it is also great news for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce fasting blood glucose by about 3-5%, an effect shared by early diabetic medications. This doesn’t mean cinnamon should be touted as a medical treatment, but it does encourage us to pay attention to the medicinal effects Mother Nature might be able to provide. Source: NPR
- Reduce inflammation. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have long peddled turmeric as an anti-inflammatory spice. A key ingredient in Indian curry, this colorful spice brings its yellow hue to everything from mustard to cheese. It is thought to work by reducing two key enzymes that contribute to inflammation, as well as preventing blood clots. Although more research is necessary, it has also proven as effective as corticosteroids in treating a condition called uveitis (inflammation of the iris). Turmeric is also a promising area of research for arthritic conditions. Curry, anyone? Source: UMC Medical Center.
- Relieve digestive issues. One of my favorite spices is ginger. It’s an invigorating spice that adds zest to a variety of dishes and makes a delicious wintertime tea. For over 2,000 years, the people of China have turned to ginger to help with a variety of digestive issues, including nausea and well, *ahem*, other digestive ailments. The reason behind its effectiveness is not exactly clear, but it’s believed that gingerol (one of the active components) is the culprit. It’s been helpful for patients undergoing chemotherapy as well as women experiencing morning sickness during pregnancy (short-term use). Sources: UMC Medical Center, EverydayHealth.
- Boost immunity. I absolutely love garlic. Minced garlic, garlic powder, garlic salt, or even pickled garlic – you name it, and I’m there! I never miss a chance to incorporate it in my cooking; in fact, I’ll often double it in recipes since I’m such a fan of the flavor. In addition to waking up tired dishes, it also has some incredible health benefits, including the ability to act as a natural antibiotic and boost your immune power. It was even used to ward off gangrene during both World Wars. Raw garlic is best though, since cooking methods can break down its more than 100 sulfuric compounds. Can I use this as another excuse to eat garlic bread? I think so. Source: WebMD.
While I’ve certainly been known to pop a few Ibuprofen or down Pepto-Bismol when I’m feeling queasy, over the counter medications can be expensive and full of unnecessary chemicals. As we all work towards a healthier lifestyle, why not consider the cheap, delicious medicine of nature?
Do you have any favorite natural remedies?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician. The information above was collected from online research and is not intended to treat or cure any illness or medical concern. Please consult your physician before implementing any type of natural remedy, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have another health condition.