Spice Up Your Health
A health boost may be as close as your spice rack. Besides adding color and flavor to favorite dishes, research shows that many herbs and spices are full of beneficial compounds that may help protect against disease.
But there is a caveat: Although the research is promising, adding herbs and spices to foods isn't a magic bullet or cure-all for diseases. To date, the majority of research is based on lab and animal studies, not human trials, so the results are suggestive but not conclusive. And most of the studies use herbs or spices in pill form or in much larger amounts than you'd normally add to foods.
Still, herbs and spices add wonderful flavor to foods—without adding calories, salt, sugar or fat—so sprinkle them on for great taste as well as their potential health benefits.
Here's the latest health news on some favorite herbs and spices, and ideas for adding them to your culinary repertoire:
What the research shows: For people with type 2 diabetes, cinnamon may help reduce risk for factors associated with metabolic syndrome such as high blood cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels. Researchers have also studied cinnamon for its potential to improve cognitive function and boost alertness.
Dish it up: For a Middle Eastern flavor, simmer rice with a cinnamon stick or add a teaspoon to your ground coffee beans before brewing.
What the research shows: Ginger may help decrease motion sickness and nausea. Researchers are also studying ginger's potential for relieving arthritis pain.
Dish it up: Stir ground ginger into low-fat mayonnaise to give sandwiches a kick, or sprinkle on sautéed spinach or baked sweet potatoes.
What the research shows: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric (one of the many spices in curry powder) may help prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. Researchers are also examining curcumin's potential in protecting against dementia and Alzheimer's disease and recent research shows curcumin may reduce heart enlargement, thereby lowering risk of heart failure.
Dish it up: For an Indian-style condiment, stir curry powder into yogurt and serve with roast chicken. Or, add a pinch to egg salad to liven it up.
What the research shows: Rosemary contains substances that may help manage blood sugar levels, stimulate the immune system and improve concentration.
Dish it up: Roast new potatoes tossed with fresh rosemary leaves and olive oil. Or, mix rosemary with other herbs for a delicious poultry rub.
What the research shows: Garlic may help prevent cancer and decrease risk for heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels.
Dish it up: Sauté chopped garlic with fresh vegetables as a topper for pasta. Or roast garlic for a delicious bread spread: Peel away papery outer skin of bulb, leaving cloves intact. Slice off top of bulb to expose cloves and drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap in foil and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until soft. Let cool, then squeeze out a clove.