Friday, October 28, 2011

Spice Up Your Life

Spices have been around for ages. The uses of spices as medicine has been around for ages. But here in the US we seem to be just catching on to this not so secret secret. Now there is plenty of news and info available saying spices could possibly have more beneficial antioxidants than the fruits or vegetables they sometimes flavor.

I looked at a handful of sites, and then worked with three different articles to compile a basic list of spices and what good they actually do for you. Each had some similarities and spices the others didn’t. I am offering no guarantees, but by spicing things up a little, you just may feel a bit healthier. So according to the three sites I chose to use, here is some info.

Cinnamon: One of the most commonly used spices, it is native to South East Asia, but used almost globally. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde which helps prevent blood clots and inflammation, cinnamon slows the rate at which foods exits your stomach, making you feel full for longer and prevent blood sugar spikes. Cinnamon also aids the removal of bile from the system, triggering the body to break down cholesterol to create more bile, making it a cholesterol fighter. One source said just smelling cinnamon increases brain activity. There were tests done in 2003 done on all the spices and cinnamon has the most disease fighting anti-oxidants. Traditional Chinese medicine uses cinnamon and ginger in tea to ward off cold and flu’s.

Tumeric: Hails from the same family as ginger and stains almost anything it touches, it’s the color you see in curries and traditional mustard. The benefits are extensive, a few highlights are cancer fighting properties, it aids the livers ability to purify toxins, prevents the oxidation of cholesterol and has been found to be as effective as hydrocortisone and Motrin as an anti-inflammatory and is helpful to those with bowel diseases. The flavor is a peppery orangy flavor akin to ginger and orange.

Capsaicin: The heat in peppers is measured by The Scoville Scale. The scale determines how much capsaicin is in each pepper, the higher, the hotter. Scotch Bonnets, habeneros and jalapenos, the are at the top of the scale while bell peppers are at the bottom. Capsaicin provides not only heat in your mouth, but fires up your metabolism as well, increases your heart rate, stimulates your nerve endings and releases endorphins. It will clear up your nose and lungs, kill stomach bacteria preventing the formation of ulcers, increase immunity, decrease cholesterol, and they claim it’s a pain reducer, but my thoughts are you are so preoccupied with your mouth being on fire, you don’t recognize any other pain.

Ginger: Is known to settle an upset stomach and nausea, as a matter of fact for over 2000 years it has been used medicinally. For symptoms of intestinal disorders, nausea and motion sickness, it is often more effective than over the counter remedies. Another cholesterol fighter, ginger is also is an anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants and while there is no conclusive evidence yet it is believed it can stimulate blood flow and decrease pain.

Oregano: Is said to be wildly helpful in fighting off infections. The compounds thymol and carvacrol have even been found more effective than a prescription durg in Mexico against an amoeba. When compared gram to gram, fresh oregano has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.

Parsley: Along with being a plate garnish/after dinner breath freshener, parsley has the ability to neutralize carcinogens like cigarette and barbeque smoke and in animals, it has been shown to prevent tumor growth, making it an excellent cancer fighter. Besides the antioxidants, it contains vitamin C, beta carotene and folic acid. Some believe that is helps pass kidney stones and keep arteries clear.

Cumin: Used in dishes spanning the globe, cumin raises the bodies metabolic activity making it easier to absorb nutrients. It is rich in iron, helps digestion and is said to improve mental alacrity and memory.

Sage: Meaning “to be saved” sage like many of the others, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, being excelling at preventing oxygen damage to cells. Research was done in the past to support evidence that people given sage oil extract had better recall function than those with a placebo, so it may be good for memory as well.

Garlic: Garlic is a fighting herb. It fights fungus, bacteria, viruses and anyone who wants to get close to you after eating it. It has been suggested it may fight cancer and cholesterol and definitely romance.

Thyme: Common in winter meals that take all day to cook and your belly warm, the oil from thyme is known to be an antiseptic as well as an antibacterial. What fascinated me was recent studies that have shown can kill MRSA infections, which antibiotics are defenseless against.

Vanilla: The best yet. Vanilla is an aphrodisiac and the oils in it stimulate secretion of hormones which increase libido, which…well, you take it from there. If you are unsure of the direction to take it, get some vanilla almost immediately. The active compound is vanillin, it is a strong anti-oxidant as well as an anti-carcinogenic. Vanillin contains vanillanoid which acts similarly to capsacin in the body. They have recently discovered it has the potential to fight sickle-cell disease, preventing sickle cell formation, but the vanillin is destroyed by stomach acid. They are currently working on a way to avoid that damage. I think it’s great for aromatherapy. One whiff of vanilla and things just seem better. Look at that, a circular argument.

Black Pepper: Like salt, pepper adds spice and brings out the flavor of food. Pepper also acts to prevent intestinal gas, gets the taste buds moving, then they relay a message to the stomach to start increasing acid for digestion. The outer layer of the peppercorn also is said to help breakdown fat cells. Buy whole and grind at home!

The message here seems clear. Our diets need to mainly consist of spices with a few fillers like potatoes with your garlic, soup with your turmeric and buttered toast with your cinnamon. Get grinding!!

7 Miracle Spices With Huge Health Benefits (and Big Flavor)
The Worlds 7 Most Potent Disease-Fighting Spices
Cooking with Spices

If you want to read more about the spices, especially those pertaining to the fall season, check out this article called Spice Up Your Life.
Photo via Flickr.

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