Healthy hacks with Spices

by in Energy Nutrition, Health, Other, Tips and Tricks June 23, 2021

Almost every cuisine on the planet that has stood the test of time has incorporated some form of medicinal foods. When we think about medicinal plants, we’re talking about spices. Continually underestimated in favor of trendier superfoods, their effects on the body and on health are far reaching. Beyond their aromatic properties, their complex antioxidants and dense nutritional profiles work together to give our health a real boost. Do we need to mention the phytonutrients, vitamins and essential oils that fight disease and bolster our immune systems? We all know (and feel) how the world is an increasingly toxic place with pollution, free radicals and radiation from various sources affecting our bodies, health and biorhythms. Along with being powerhouses of nutrition, spices are amazing flavor enhancers and flavor creators – all without adding sugar, salt or fat to your delicious healthy dish. Just a small pinch of spice can bring your dish an exotic influence, Mediterranean aroma or Latin inspired flair. To help you get inspired, we’ve outlined the most potent spices (in terms of health), and some suggestions on how to use them. Keep in mind that spices usually have a stronger, concentrated flavor so be prepared to make tiny adjustments and proceed with caution. Less is more when it comes to experimenting with spice. Liberal use of spices is a healthy indulgence indeed!

Let’s start with a crowd favorite. You’ve probably heard of cinnamon and we can bet you’ve also tried a tempting cinnamon infused treat once or twice. Cinnamon is the famous flavor behind many delicacies from being dusted on doughnuts to generous helpings in your pumpkin spice latte. It’s a great beginners spice because its super versatile and yummy! It’s amazing at lowering blood sugar so well in fact, that diabetics are able to “cheat“ on blood sugar tests by consuming just half a teaspoon in the hours before giving a sample. Whilst we don’t recommend you get your dose in the form of desserts and naughty treats, you can use this healthy spice to lend a sweet taste to food without adding processed sugar. Other heart healthy benefits of cinnamon include reducing high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Prepare a healthy chai latte by warming up some almond or plant-based milk, adding a sprinkle of cinnamon, dash of vanilla essence, and maybe even some cacao powder if you’re partial to a chocolatey palate.

Indian aficionados will be familiar with the inflammation fighting benefits of turmeric. Its skin supporting benefits are one reason India has one of the lowest rates of skin cancer in the world. Turmeric’s active compound curcumin naturally protects the skin with powerful antioxidants which are also proven to boost brain health in Alzheimer’s patients. Turmeric is so multitasking it even has been used effectively in reducing joint swelling and inflammation in arthritis patients. Get inspired to use this nutrition powerhouse by whipping up a curry recipe at least one night per week. You can also use turmeric as part of a meat and veggie rub before roasting in the oven. In the mood for Mexican? Sprinkle some turmeric powder on your tacos or nacho dip and you’ll be doing your whole body a favor.

Ease aches and pains with cayenne, a type of chili pepper found in south and central American cuisines like Mexican, Creole and Cajun dishes. Thanks to its capsaicin content, it not only adds a spicy kick to your dish, but also relieves physical pain by interrupting the pain signals sent to your brain. It’s so effective at alleviating physical discomfort, that many creams and topical ointments on the market today contain capsaicin. Applied directly to joint and muscles, or taken orally, the benefits are the same! Internal pains like stomach ulcers are also no match for cayenne pepper’s pain killing capabilities. Capsaicin saves the day again by restricting the growth of ulcer-causing bacteria, reduces excess stomach acid and increasing blood flow for better digestion. Spicy food lovers can sprinkle this therapeutic spice on anything from rice, stews, soups, on meats and prawns.

If you’re joining us from the Middle East, you’ll be quite familiar with our next spice. Cardamon has been used since the beginning of time in Arabic cuisines as both a tasty flavor enhancer and medicinally. Cardamon seeds come from plant species related to the ginger family. Its unique flavor makes it sensational in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s high phytochemical content means it boasts anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits to consumers. Cardamon is so effective as an antibacterial, that cardamon oil is often used in oil form to kill bacteria and fungi. People have used cardamon as breath fresheners for centuries to fight off bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Chewing cardamon seeds for just five minutes daily can balance the pH in your mouth, preventing gum disease and other nasties from taking hold. Cardamon’s high antioxidant content means it also helps improve heart function, and cholesterol levels. Cardamon is typically added to curries, desserts, and meat dishes. Arabic coffee traditionally utilizes cardamon giving it the distinctive flavor that locals and foreigners alike form an affinity to. Chai tea is another international favorite and delicious way to get your daily cardamon dose.

Rounding out the top spices to hack your way to health, ginger deserves an honorable mention as a dynamic and robust elixir. A tropical plant that’s been used in Asian cultures for thousands of years, ginger is best known for calming nausea related to pregnancy, travel sickness, and even discomfort after surgery. Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger, is responsible for much of ginger’s medicinal properties. This aptly named compound has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant effects, and has been proven to reduce oxidative stress. What else can it do? How about help you lose weight. A 2016 study concluded that ginger taken daily helped reduce the BMI of eighty obese women, whilst also reducing blood insulin levels. Participants received a dose of two milligrams for two weeks and not only did they experience weight loss, but in particular a healthier waist-to-hip ratio. Ginger’s good work doesn’t end there. Consuming ginger has been proven to speed up the emptying of the stomach, easing indigestion and discomfort in the upper part of the digestive tract in the process. A study showed how subjects who consumed ginger took twelve minutes for their stomachs to empty, compared to sixteen minutes in those who received a placebo. We could honestly write a whole blog dedicated to ginger’s superfood status, but we’ll have to save that for another day. Work ginger into your diet by adding raw grated ginger to stir fry dishes, smoothies (if you’re brave), or our favorite, steeping it in a tea with lemon and honey.

Spices do more than just add flavor to food. Their health benefits can support us in making healthy decisions in every aspect of our lives. When you feel better, you gain confidence and feel empowered to take care of your body in better ways. Enjoying your food, spicing things up now and then, is key to maintaining healthy habits for a long time. We hope you’re inspired to experiment with spices. Potent, affordable, and brimming with health benefits, they truly are the forgotten superfood we don’t give enough credit to.

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