Blog Healthiest Holiday Spices

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Healthiest Holiday Spices

  • by jHodgson
  • December 18, 2012

While science has yet to show that any spice cures disease, there’s compelling evidence that several may help manage some chronic conditions (though it’s always smart to talk with your doctor). And of course, seasoning your dishes with spices allows you to use less of other ingredients linked with health problems, such as salt, added sugars and sources of saturated fat. What’s not to love? Here we’ve gathered eight of the healthiest spices and herbs enjoyed around the world.

 

1. Sage

Pairs well with: Squashes; parsley; rosemary; thyme; walnuts
May help:
Preserve memory, soothe sore throats.
Recipe to try:
Sweet Potato & Turnip Mash with Sage Butter and More Sage Recipes

Today’s herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats; one study found that spraying sore throats with a sage solution gave effective pain relief. And whoever gave the herb the wisdom-connoting “sage” moniker may have been onto something: preliminary research suggests the herb may improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. In another study, college students who took sage extracts in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests, and their moods improved.

 

2. Rosemary

Pairs well with: Potatoes; citrus; honey; garlic; onions; chile peppers
May help: Enhance mental focus, fight foodborne bacteria.
Recipe to try: Rosemary Flatbread with Yellow Split Pea Spread and More Rosemary Recipes

In ancient Greece, scholars wore rosemary garlands to help them study—and one recent study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles. Rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry, and there’s scientific wisdom behind that tradition: rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling, and may even make cooked meats healthier. In March, Kansas State University researchers reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)—cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.

 

3. Turmeric

Pairs well with: Garlic; citrus; ingredients in curry powder, such as coriander & cumin
May help: Quell inflammation, inhibit tumors.
Recipe to try: Golden Turmeric Latkes with Applesauce and More Turmeric Recipes

In India, turmeric paste is applied to wounds to speed healing; people sip turmeric tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. Modern medicine confirms some solid-gold health benefits as well; most are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researcher Bharat Aggarwal is bullish on curcumin’s potential as a cancer treatment, particularly in colon, prostate and breast cancers; preliminary studies have found that curcumin can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

 

4. Chile Pepper

Pairs well with: Ginger; chocolate; beans; beef
May help: Boost metabolism.
Recipe to try: Paprika & Red Pepper Soup with Pistachio Puree and More Chile Pepper Recipes

Chiles, which create sensations of heat, from mild to fiery, are especially prized in hot climates since, ironically, the spice helps trigger the body’s natural cooling systems. Studies show that capsaicin—a pungent compound in hot chiles—revs up the body’s metabolism and may boost fat burning, but the jury is still out on whether that translates to long-term weight loss. Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chile hybrids, have the same effects—so even tamer sweet paprika packs a healthy punch. Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria and help the heart by keeping “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form.

 

5. Ginger

Pairs well with: Soy sauce; citrus; chile peppers; garlic
May help: Soothe an upset stomach, fight arthritis pain.
Recipe to try: Ginger-Marinated Leg of Lamb with Israeli Couscous & Kale and More Ginger Recipes

Traditionally used to relieve colds and stomach troubles, ginger is rich in inflammation-fighting compounds, such as gingerols, which some experts believe may hold promise in fighting some cancers and reducing arthritis pain. In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed exercises designed to strain their muscles (compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules). Another study found that ginger extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis pain of the knee. And ginger’s reputation as a stomach soother seems deserved: studies show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery or chemotherapy, though it’s less effective for motion sickness.

 

6. Cinnamon

Pairs well with: Cloves; nutmeg; allspice; chocolate; fruit; nuts
May help: Stabilize blood sugar.
Recipe to try: Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Cranberry-Raisin Sauce and More Cinnamon Recipes

Cinnamon was prized by King Solomon and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to boost appetite and relieve indigestion. A few studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food—up to a teaspoon a day, usually given in capsule form—might help people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar, by lowering post-meal blood-sugar spikes. Other studies suggest the effects are limited at best.

 

7. Saffron

Pairs well with: Shellfish, rice, tomatoes, garlic, onion
May help: Boost your mood, relieve symptoms of PMS
Recipe to try: Winter Squash Risotto and More Saffron Recipes

Saffron has long been used in traditional Persian medicine as a mood lifter, usually steeped into a medicinal tea or used to prepare rice. Research from Iran’s Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital at Tehran University of Medical Sciences has found that saffron may help to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and depression. In one study, 75% of women with PMS who were given saffron capsules daily reported that their PMS symptoms (such as mood swings and depression) declined by at least half, compared with only 8 percent of women who didn’t take saffron.

 

8. Parsley

Pairs well with: lemon zest, mint, garlic, capers, fish, beef
May help: Prevent cancer
Recipe to try: Rustic Parsley & Orzo Soup with Walnuts

University of Missouri scientists found that this herb can actually inhibit breast cancer-cell growth, reported Holly Pevzner in the September/October 2011 issue of EatingWell Magazine. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley (and in celery), boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors. Experts recommend adding a couple pinches of minced fresh parsley to your dishes daily.

 

Article information taken directly from: http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/8_of_the_worlds_healthiest_spices

 

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