Welcome back to More Than Healthy! We’re continuing to share a Full Year of Resolutions, weekly tips of important and easy-to-incorporate things you can do to reclaim your health. This is week 49, and this week’s Tip is all about the benefits of adding spices and good seasonings to your meals.
Note: There is so much good information on this that we’re actually going to do this in a 2-part series, and next week we will be talking about some of the best healthy herbs you can add to your diet as well.
Adding spices and good seasonings to your meals is easy!
I’ve been the lucky recipient of Carla’s amazing cooking skills over the years. But now, you’re lucky too, because Carla has spent a lot of time and effort compiling her recipes, and she shares them all for free in a repository on our website! As we discuss each of the spices and their particular health benefits, we’ll also link to a couple of our favorite delicious and healthy recipes that use those spices.
Making good food for our family is definitely one of Carla’s love languages! The kitchen is one of her happy places, and she is so good at experimenting and finding ways to make a healthy version of our favorite things so that I can eat it, too. When we take food to a party or gathering, she’ll make one of her gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free desserts, and we don’t even tell anyone that’s what they’re eating. And no one ever knows! They just think it’s a delicious dessert.
One of the best ways to make healthy food delicious is by using flavorful herbs, spices, and good seasonings. But what many people don’t realize is that not only do these herbs and spices add delicious flavor to your dishes, but they also come with added health benefits. Today we’re going to talk about five of our favorite spices, and tell you a little about the specific health benefits of each.
Five of our favorite spices and their health benefits
Let’s start with one of my favorite spices, and one that we especially like to use during the holiday season: cinnamon. Cinnamon is made from the inner bark of trees. It has been used as an ingredient in foods and valued for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Dating as far back as 2800 BC in Ancient Egypt, cinnamon was a rare and valuable gift fit for kings.
The potent health benefits of cinnamon
Science now confirms that cinnamon has potent health benefits. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. The antioxidants in cinnamon are so powerful that it can even be used to preserve food. Studies show that cinnamon can significantly increase antioxidant levels in the blood while reducing inflammation. Did you know that cinnamon has powerful anti-inflammatory properties? Adding some yummy cinnamon to your oatmeal can help you to fight disease.
Studies also show that cinnamon can help protect against heart disease, the leading cause of death around the world. One study showed that ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon a day reduced levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Cinnamon is also proven to reduce blood pressure when eaten consistently.
Cinnamon may also help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Studies show that cinnamon appears to inhibit the buildup of a protein in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study showed that cinnamon helped protect neurons, normalized neurotransmitter levels, and improved motor function in mice with Parkinson’s disease.
The two forms of cinnamon
But, not all cinnamon is the same. Although all cinnamon has health benefits, the Cassia variety contains significant amounts of a compound called coumarin, which is believed to be harmful when consumed in large doses.
Next, let’s talk about cayenne pepper. This popular red pepper adds versatile flavor to your meals and is full of health benefits. Cayenne peppers have a hot, but not-too-hot level of kick. If you like spicy food, you’re probably familiar with the Scoville scale, which measures the heat of peppers. A jalapeno pepper packs about 5,000 Scoville Heat Units, while a cayenne pepper is somewhere between 30,000-50,000. So you probably wouldn’t go around snacking on a raw pepper. But it’s a great spice to add if you want to pack some punch.
It’s also healthy. Like most colorful produce, cayenne peppers are a good source of nutrients. The powdered form doesn’t contain quite as many vitamins as the fresh peppers do, but dried cayenne pepper is a good source of vitamin A. With just one teaspoon of cayenne pepper, you get 15% of your daily vitamin A requirements. Vitamin A is essential for vision, reproduction, immune system health, and the proper function of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
Capsaicin gives your health a kick
But the health benefits of cayenne go well beyond its vitamin content. Many of its benefits come from capsaicin, the natural compound that gives all peppers their spicy kick. Cayenne peppers are another fantastic source of antioxidants and other plant compounds that protect our cells against damage from harmful substances in the environment. They also help ward off disease, including heart disease and certain cancers.
In one study, researchers compared antioxidant levels in 20 different hot peppers. Cayenne peppers were ranked #1. That capsaicin in cayenne pepper also helps protect against inflammation in the body, something you know we are always interested in. It can help keep blood vessels healthy and may help lower blood pressure. Research actually found that people who regularly eat peppers are 13% less likely to die than those who avoid spicy food, because they had a lower risk of heart-related diseases like heart attacks and strokes.
Cayenne peppers and weight loss
An additional and perhaps surprising benefit of cayenne pepper is that it may help with weight loss, as spicy foods can rev up the metabolism, helping to burn calories and help you feel fuller after eating.
Cayenne pepper is a super addition to your diet. It blends with a lot of different types of cuisine, as it’s used in dishes from just about every country in the world. A few of our favorites include Roasted Red Potatoes and Kale Coleslaw.
This next spice is one of our favorites to use during the holidays. You may know cloves as the cozy smell of hot Christmas wassail, or as a staple spice in Indian cuisine. Carla’s favorite way to use cloves is in her recipe for gingerbread, when we have our 18 grandkids over for our annual gingerbread house party. Cloves are sweet and aromatic, but they’re also used in traditional medicine.
The potent health benefits of cloves
Studies have found that the compounds in cloves have several health benefits, including supporting liver health and helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. Cloves contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so using whole or ground cloves adds flavor to your food and also provides some important nutrients. They are a significant source of Manganese, an essential mineral that maintains brain function and helps build strong bones. One teaspoon of cloves provides 55% of the recommended Daily Value of Manganese.
And, as with all of the spices we’ve mentioned so far, cloves are a good source of antioxidants. Eugenol, a compound in cloves, acts as a powerful natural antioxidant. One study found that eugenol stopped oxidative damage five times more effectively than vitamin E, another potent antioxidant.
Cloves and cancer
Eugenol also has anticancer properties. One study found that clove extract helped stop the growth of tumors and promoted cell death in cancer cells. Another study showed that clove oil caused cell death in 80% of esophageal cancer cells.
Cloves also have antimicrobial properties, meaning they help stop the growth of microorganisms like bacteria. Studies show that clove oil killed three common types of bacteria, including E. coli, the strain of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Cloves are easy to incorporate into your diet. It brings a warm, distinctive flavor to your food. One of our favorites is Carla’s Pumpkin Pie (it’s gluten-free and sugar-free, but nobody ever knows it!) You can also simmer whole cloves in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to make a soothing cup of clove tea.
Next are chili peppers, a spice that can be used fresh or dried and powdered. Powdered red chili peppers are known as paprika. Like cayenne, capsaicin is the main plant compound in chili peppers, responsible for their unique, pungent, and spicy-hot taste and many of their health benefits.
Chili peppers are very high in powerful antioxidants. They also have vitamins A, C, B6, and K1, as well as potassium and copper. Some studies associate chili peppers with pain relief, as the capsaicin binds with pain receptors, the nerve endings that sense pain.
They also play a unique role with weight loss. Studies show that 10 grams of red chili pepper can significantly increase fat burn as well as calorie intake. Capsaicin is linked to reduced calorie intake; one study showed that participants who consumed chili before a meal ate fewer calories.
A word of caution when it comes to chili peppers, however: pay attention to your tolerance levels when eating them. If you have digestive problems, you may need to take it easy on the chili peppers. But, if you can tolerate a little spice, you might want to try Carla’s Grilled Pork Chops or her delicious Crab and Avocado Salad.
Last but certainly not least is ginger, a staple when it comes to cooking. Ginger is listed as an herb in many culinary recipes while others classify it as a spice. Some call dried ginger powder a spice while calling the fresh root version an herb. What’s the answer? It’s a spice!
Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, as an oil, or as a juice. It is one of the healthiest, and tastiest, spices. It’s a very common ingredient in recipes. It’s also sometimes added to cosmetics, as it is known to be effective at controlling acne and other skin problems. Ginger has a very long history of being used in traditional and alternative medicine. It’s used to aid digestion, reduce nausea, and help fight the flu and common cold.
Ginger might help with chemotherapy-related nausea. But it’s particularly effective at helping pregnancy-related nausea. One review of 12 studies of 1,278 pregnant women concluded that 1.1-1.5 grams of ginger can significantly reduce symptoms of nausea.
Gingerol, a natural infection fighter
Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger, is responsible for many of ginger’s medicinal properties. It has a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect and helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body. This compound also helps lower the risk of infections, as it inhibits the growth of many different types of bacteria. It’s especially effective against oral bacteria and can help prevent gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.
Because of these anti-bacterial properties, fresh ginger may also be effective against respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. RSV most commonly affects children under 2 and people over 75, but this year it seems to be affecting people of all ages. At the time of this writing, RSV has hit many areas of the country particularly hard. Last month, the Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital announced it will delay non-emergency surgeries and procedures due to the RSV surge.
Ginger and diabetes
In addition, recent studies have also found that ginger has powerful anti-diabetic properties. A 2015 study involving participants with type 2 diabetes found that 2 grams of ginger powder per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 12%. Ginger also dramatically improved hemoglobin A1c, the marker test used to determine long-term blood sugar levels. Over a 12-week period, participants’ A1c scores were reduced by 10%.
Additional health benefits of ginger include protecting brain function, anti-cancer properties, helping lower cholesterol, and reduction of menstrual pain. It truly is a superfood! And, it’s a superfood that tastes delicious! Want a fabulous gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free dessert? Try Carla’s Sweet Potato Pie, one of my very favorites.
Spices and good seasonings are more satisfying
A spicy, flavorful diet not only tastes better, it’s more satisfying. And, when you’re satisfied, you’re less likely to reach for those not-so-healthy foods and snacks. Those of us who use strong flavors and lots of good seasonings in our food are often happier with our diets and tend to eat healthier overall.
We encourage you to add a little spice – and some extra health benefits – to your life by adding some of these spices to your diet.
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A great way to find out what you need in your diet (and what you should avoid) is through hair analysis, a service we now offer at More Than Healthy. With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report that looks at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, and immune factors. It also tells you which foods you should avoid – and it all only takes about 15 minutes! Go to morethanhealthy.com to learn more and schedule your hair analysis today.
Spice up your life with good seasonings
What are your favorite spices? Did you know about the incredible health benefits these spices add to your food? We always love to hear from you! Let us know if you have any questions about the health benefits of adding spices and good seasonings to your meals. And be sure to tune in next week, where we will talk about our favorite delicious and healthy herbs to use in your cooking.
If you have health questions, please go to our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram (@morethanhealthyliving) and ask them there. We try to respond to all questions. We’d love to help you in any way and coach you on your journey to optimal health.
Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.