Monday, April 25, 2011

Spice Up Your Life: 9 Disease Fighting Spices and How to Use Them

Spices don't just make your food tasty, ´╗┐there is also a great deal of research about the therapeutic and disease fighting effects of herbs and spices. It turns out that even small amounts of the following nine super spices can have an impact on your health and well being. Since the active compounds in herbs and spices degrade over time, it's important to buy them at their peak and pay attention to "best buy" dates. Always replace yearly and use fresh if available.

Learn more after the jump.

  • Chili Peppers
    • Health Benefits: Chili peppers and dried cayenne pepper contain capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound that helps reduce pain. Additionally, chili peppers have been found to clear congestion, boost immunity, prevent stomach ulcers by killing bacteria, help with weight loss, reduce cholesterol, and prevent stomach and prostate cancers.
    • Uses: Add chopped chilis to veggies, soups, stews and dips. The hotter the pepper, the more disease fighting capsaicin it contains. Try habenero or scotch bonnets for heat, or, if you prefer something milder, try jalapenos, cherry peppers, or anaheim chilis.
  • Cinnamon
    • Health Benefits: Cinnamon is an anti-microbial superstar that stops the growth of bacteria, fungi and yeast. Cinnamon also has effective anti-clotting properties, which prevent blood clots and keep your arteries healthy. It is also excellent for managing blood sugar and insulin resistance.
    • Uses: Cinnamon can be purchased ground or in sticks and is commonly used in Mexican, Middle Eastern and other ethnic dishes. It is also used heavily in many desserts and breads. Cinnamon tea is a powerful cold and flu fighter.
  • Turmeric
    • Health Benefits: Brightly colored turmeric gives color to curry paste and mustard. The active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound, which some studies have found is just as effective as hydrocortisone and Motrin. It fights inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's and ulcerative colitis as well as arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
    • Uses: Turmeric's warm, peppery flavor is similar to ginger and orange and gives flavor to curries, sauces, soups and salads. When cooking with turmeric, make sure to add lots of black pepper, as it is believed to help the body absorb turmeric to the maximum effect.
  • Parsley
    •  Health Benefits: Studies have shown that parsley has the ability to inhibit tumor formation, particularly in the lungs. It can also neutralize carcinogens, such as those from cigarette smoke. It is an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene and folic acid and also helps pass kidney stones and prevent arterial buildup.
    • Uses: A popular garnish, parsley also compliments soups, salads, casseroles, and potatoes. I always add chopped fresh parsley to my meatballs.
  • Oregano
    • Health Benefits: Oregano has antibacterial studies, and one recent study found that oregano was more effective at killing amoebas than some common prescription drugs. It is also rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, packing more than 4 times more antioxidant activity than blueberries.
    • Uses: A popular addition to Italian dishes, oregano can also be added to salad dressings, veggies, and grilled meats.
  • Thyme
    • Health Benefits: Thyme is antiseptic and antibacterial. A recent study found that thyme can kill MRSA infections, which are generally antibiotic resistant. Additionally, thyme is commonly used as an ingredient in cough drops, as its essential oil helps to treat bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory infections.
    • Uses: Soups, stews and roasts benefit from thyme's complex flavors and spice.
  • Ginger
    • Health Benefits: Gingerol, the active compound found in ginger relaxes blood vessels, relieves pain and stimulates blood flow. It is a common digestive aid which also relieves motion sickness and nausea. Ginger is also well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which are useful to fight arthritis, certain cancers, and heart disease.
    • Uses: Ground ginger is a common ingredient in many Asian dishes and compliments meat and seafood well. Additionally, pickled ginger is commonly served with sushi and sashimi. Ginger tea is soothing and antioxidant rich, while promoting digestion.
  • Garlic
    • Health Benefits: A staple of natural and holistic remedies, garlic has anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral effects. Studies confirm that garlic can help prevent blood clots and it's also a natural mosquito repellant and acne treatment.
    • Uses: If you've read my blog, you can use garlic for anything and everything. Soups, salad dressing, pasta, meat, stir fry's, and roasted veggies are just the beginning.
  • Sage´╗┐
    • Health Benefits: Sage has the unique ability to prevent oxygen-based damage to cells due to its high concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids. This means sage may be helpful in combating rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and atherosclerosis. Furthermore, recent studies confirm that sage promotes brain function.
    • Uses: Sage has a sweet and subtle flavor that compliments roasted meats, soups, salad dressings, and eggs. It is fabulous in stuffings and gravies as well.

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