Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices


Nutrition News: Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices not only add flavor to your food, making it that much more enjoyable, but they also provide some great health benefits. It isn’t common to get a double-win like this in health. Using herbs is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re getting more nutrients into every meal. Every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices, you’re literally upgrading your food without adding a single calorie. Instead, you’re taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary by adding color, flavor, vitamins and often medicinal properties.

Here is a compilation of some of the most potent herbs and spices and their health benefits:

Cinnamon: Cinnamon and cinnamon extracts have been shown to effectively lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. The blood sugar lowering effect works in two ways: 1) by slowing the emptying of your stomach to reduce sharp rises in blood sugar following meals, and 2) improving the effectiveness of insulin. It also enhances your antioxidant defenses. Cinnamon also supports digestive function, constricts and tones tissues, relieves congestion, pain and stiffness of muscles and joints and menstrual discomfort, offers blood-thinning compounds to stimulate circulation, has anti-inflammatory compounds that may relieve arthritis, helps prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease, and acts as a powerful anti-microbial agent that can kill E. coli and other bacteria.

Ginger: A spice with a potent flavor that is great for warming your body and adding a kick to foods. Its medicinal properties include: being most notably and reliably known for its consistent ability to resolve nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness and other stomach upsets, contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, eliminates intestinal gas, relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract, relieves dizziness, boosts your immune system, protects against bacteria and fungi, encourages bile flow and promotes cardiovascular health.

Peppermint: The therapeutic effects of fresh peppermint leaves have been known since ancient times. It has been used to sooth the digestive tract and be effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome. Other healing properties include: may protect against cancer, inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus and relieves the symptoms of allergies and asthma.

Turmeric: The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties of curcumin, the powerful yellow phytochemical found in turmeric, has undergone intense research in various parts of the world. According to research from the Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, curcumin blocks a key biological pathway needed for the development of melanoma and other cancers. Results showed that regardless of how much curcumin was used, the spice still worked to stop the growth of melanoma by inducing cell suicide. New research is also showing curcumin might be a helpful antidepressant. So, boost your mood by adding a little turmeric to your meals.

Choose flavor over blandness every time, and try to incorporate herbs and spices into your diet on a daily basis. All culinary herbs and spices contain phytochemicals that benefit the body in some aspect or another. Adding them to your meals is a great and affordable way to turbo-boost the power of your food.


About Author

Elizabeth Blessing is co-founder and chief nutritionist of Green BEAN Delivery. Originally from Noblesville, Ind., Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Indiana University and a Master of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. After graduating from Bastyr, she worked as a nutrition educator for Washington State University King County Extension’s Food $ense Program. While at Food $ense, she co-authored nutrition education curriculum. Now Elizabeth is the on-site Nutritionist and a Food Service instructor at The Chef’s Academy, the Indiana Business College’s culinary school. Get her nutrition tips and recipes each week on the Healthy Times blog.

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