April 9, 2010

Spice It Up!

This article was originally posted on 360mainstreet.com.

Most people have a natural pharmacy in their homes and don't even know it—the spice cabinet. Spices not only add excellent flavor to your food, but they are loaded with health benefits. Although they have been used for years as natural medicine, they are sometimes overlooked as a health food. One of the easiest ways to take your health to the next level is by adding some spice to your meals!

Here are a few of my favorite spices:

Cinnamon not only tastes wonderful but has many health benefits associated with it. One of the most important benefits of cinnamon is its ability to help regulate blood sugar. It also has been shown to help reduce pain, stiffness and bad cholesterol. Cinnamon is also great to help relieve stomach discomfort from excess gas. Try putting cinnamon in your tea or on foods such as quinoa or oatmeal.

Garlic has been thought of as a super spice for years, and it does more than just keep vampires away. In more than 1,200 pharmacological studies, garlic has been shown to be an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antihypertensive, and antiparasitic, and it can lower lipid levels. It has also been shown to help prevent the common cold and help with weight loss. To receive the most health benefits, crush or chop garlic and don't put it in the microwave. I add garlic to the majority of the dishes I prepare. One of my favorite ways to eat it is to mash the fresh garlic with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then use it as a bread dip.

Ginger has been touted as a cure-all in Ayurvedic (traditional medicine originally from India) and Chinese medicine for years. One of its most common uses is as a natural remedy for an upset stomach. Ginger has been shown to be more effective than Dramamine in treating sea sickness, and another study showed that almost 75 percent of pregnant women who used ginger received relief from morning sickness. Nearly every morning, I drink green tea with fresh crushed up ginger in it.

Turmeric is my all-time favorite spice. It has a unique flavor and seems to have unlimited health benefits. Typically used in curry dishes, this bright yellow spice is a staple in India. Known for its tremendous anti-inflammatory properties, it has been shown to provide pain relief just as powerful as most over-the-counter pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, but without the side effects. Inflammation in the body can lead to such problems as asthma, heart disease and cancer, so you can see why this spice can work wonders! Try putting turmeric on eggs or mixing it in with stir fry.

All of these spices (and many others) are available at most local grocery or health food stores. Instead of relying on margarine, table salt and other unhealthy additives for flavor, add spices to your daily foods to transform them from average foods into super foods. To get the maximum health benefit, put your favorite spices right next to the stove where you will see them and are more likely to use them regularly. So, the next time you are cooking, remember to spice it up!

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