Oh ya, it’s so time for the gardens to be harvested… so what did you plant this year? Hopefully some are on this list by guest blogger, Ian Tyson. If not, put them on your grocery list and look up a few recipes. It shouldn’t be a hassle – all of them are deeeeelish!
Herbs and spices are widely used to season and enhance the flavors of dishes from soups to salads to sandwiches, but how much is known about the health benefits they offer? For centuries, people have included spices and herbs in their diets for the healing and medicinal properties they provide. Countless of medical studies in recent times have confirmed what ancient people have understood about the healing power of plants.
Packed with powerful phytonutrient compounds and antioxidants, herbs and spices boast of anti-inflammatory properties, and the wealth of benefits that range from brain-boosting benefits, bone-building, weight loss, pain relieving, keeping arteries clear and to fighting cancer and keeping blood sugar levels healthy.
Best of all, herbs and spices are guilt free super foods that can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch, dinner and desert. Not only do spices and herbs tantalize the taste buds, but have additional amazing benefits for the body too.
Here are 10 of some common and not so common spices and herbs to help you take care of your body:
1. Cayenne pepper
Lately much attention has been given to the metabolism-raising and fat-burning capabilities of the fiery capsaicin compound found in cayenne pepper, also referred to as chilies. The spice has found its way into all sorts of diets and has taken the weight loss industry by storm. In addition to aiding weight loss, capsaicin lowers the development of ulcers by helping stomach cells to ward off infection, and protects the heart by keeping bad cholesterol in check. Other benefits attributed to the use of cayenne pepper include boosting the immune system, fight free radicals and clears congestion.
Cayenne pepper is also known to have significant levels of vitamin A which allows the spice to offer pain relieving benefits. The spice complements beef and beans dishes, and can be used with ginger and chocolate.
This aromatic sweet tasting spice has antibacterial compounds which are noted for fighting germs and bacteria found in the mouth. One such compound is macelignan which is said to cut the formation of plaque by as much as 50 percent by destroying microbes responsible for forming cavities. An additional benefit provided by the protective function of anti-inflammatory compounds contained in nutmeg is the lowered risk of developing cancer by stopping tumor growth.
The concentrated levels of antibacterial agents packed in even small amounts of oregano make this a must-have herb in any kitchen. The antioxidants contained in a teaspoonful of the herb rivals the amount found in vegetables and fruit – as many as three cups of spinach and four times that found in blueberries. Oregano can help keep stomach flu at bay, has significant amounts of fiber and vitamin K which is beneficial for bone-building, and is found to have substantial amounts of thymol and carvacol – antibacterial properties that protect against infection.
The herb can be used fresh or dried without sacrificing the benefits it offers; and can be used in salad dressings, sprinkled on pizza and complements meat and veg dishes.
A spice whose use dates back to ancient civilizations (Greeks and Romans) was relied on for enhancing appetite and aiding in indigestion relief. One of the most well-known benefits of cinnamon is its healthy effect on blood sugar levels. Cinnamon contains antioxidants that help cells process glucose more effectively. The spice also maintains healthy arteries and helps in lowering cholesterol. Cinnamon contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals like manganese, iron and calcium. Uses include flavoring tea or sprinkled on oats and vegetables, and complements fruit and chocolate.
The explosive zing-like taste of ginger is just the tip of the iceberg of the phenomenal array of benefits offered by this amazing spice. Ginger has long been tied to providing relief from colds and upset stomachs (including morning sickness and nausea after a surgical procedure or chemotherapy), but studies have pointed to other highly sought after relief-centric health benefits, such as soothing arthritis pain and muscle fatigue after an exercise workout largely due to the inflammation-reducing chemical – Gingerol. Ginger is a great addition to stir-fry dishes, and complements citrus ingredients and soy sauce.
Like its bright yellow color, the health benefits of Turmeric cannot be ignored. There are claims that the spice’s potent reputation for pain relief may supersede that of over-the-counter medication like Ibuprofen. Rich in iron and manganese and abundant in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, The star component, Curcumin is a major contributor to the varied long list of benefits, from effective digestion of fats to healing wounds quickly, providing arthritis pain relief, managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin can also stifle tumor cell growth and destroy enzymes that trigger carcinogens. Turmeric is easily consumed in curries and rice dishes.
Saffron has mainly been associated with rice dishes, bringing an aromatic flavor as well as rich gold coloring to rice. In Persian medicine, the spice was known to lift or enhance moods. More recently, scientific research has suggested that Saffron may help in alleviating PMS and depression symptoms. Saffron can be used in rice dishes, and with shellfish.
Fennel is an excellent source of calcium (required for strong bones and teeth) niacin (aids in transforming foodstuff into fuel for the body, and vitamin C which is needed to support a healthy immune system. The body’s metabolism and digestive organs benefit from the dietary fiber and iron levels found in rich supply in fennel. The plant has appetite suppressing properties. Fresh fennel leaves eaten as a raw ingredient in salads offer the most nutritional values, but the herb can be used in stir-fries and complements fish dishes equally well.
Not a spice in the strictest sense, cocoa does take on a similar role by enhancing the flavors of sauces, drinks and marinades, and the health benefits it provides is why it appears on this list. Cocoa flavanols have been found to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to ensure that blood flows to where they should.
Basil features extraordinary potent antioxidant compounds and is a good source of a range of minerals and vitamins including vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. The myriad health benefits of this versatile herb include addressing stomach acid reflux and ulcers, ease joint inflammation, and help with fluid retention. Basil is a wonderful flavorful addition to salads, soups and pasta dishes.
About the Author
Ian Tyson is a fitness fanatic who is always delivering the latest breakthroughs in Health and Fitness. His Blog, Scienceofbodybuilding.com is a trusted resource for people who are looking to gain an edge in the fitness world.