The World’s Healthiest Spices and What They’re Good For
Spices aren’t really considered big players when it comes to healthy eating, but they deserve to be recognized for their nutritional value. In fact, many spices are packed with more disease-fighting antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables.
Spices, although used sparingly while cooking, contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants that offer a range of health benefits. The healthiest spices should have a permanent place on your kitchen shelf.
Healthiest Spices to Add to Your Diet
Spices add pep to any meal, and offer an inexpensive way to flavour your food without adding more sodium, fats, and calories. Spices are used by the handful in many cuisines, especially in Asia and Africa. People in these countries swear by the health benefits of spices—from digestive and heart health to pain relief and cancer prevention.
Spices are also known to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, which is why they are used medicinally in many cultures.
Here are the healthiest spices in the world, and the reasons why you should add them to your diet.
Popular in Indian and Chinese cuisines, turmeric is, without a doubt, one of the healthiest spices known to us. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as a treatment for numerous health problems, and researchers in the West are warming up to its benefits, too.
Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Chronic inflammation is responsible for many common illnesses such as metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Curcumin can inhibit many molecules that contribute to inflammation. It can help treat heartburn and digestive problems.
While studies in humans are still in its nascent stages, research done on animals shows promising effects of curcumin in cancer treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, curcumin “interferes with several important molecular pathways involved in cancer development, growth and spread.”
Lab studies show it can shrink tumors, and increase the effects of chemotherapy in animals.
2. Cayenne Pepper
A little cayenne pepper may go a long way with your health. This spice, other than adding a spicy kick to food, is great for health. Capsaicin, a compound found in many hot peppers, is what gives cayenne pepper its hot and spicy flavour. Research shows capsaicin boosts metabolism, which causes the body to generate more heat and burn extra calories for fuel.
Cayenne pepper also has therapeutic benefits. Research shows cayenne pepper can help relieve aches and soreness. This explains why it is the active ingredient in a number of pain-relief creams and treatment.
Other health benefits of cayenne include better blood circulation and heart health. It may also help prevent and treat prostate cancer and ulcers.
Use cayenne pepper to add spice to your curries, soups, and meats. There are a number of peppers to choose from—hot and mild—so pick one with a spice level you can handle.
Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse. It is chock-full of antioxidants, and a rich source of iron, calcium and manganese. Research suggests that cinnamon may help control blood sugar and hypertension in people with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon is known to regulate glucose in the blood, and increase insulin levels in the body at the same time.
Cinnamon imitates the biological activity of insulin, thus promoting the metabolism of glucose. For this reason, cinnamon is credited with aiding weight loss.
Start your day by sprinkling cinnamon on your oatmeal, fruit or toast. You can add it to smoothies and even your morning coffee.
Like turmeric, cumin also contains curcumin, in addition to other compounds that offer a number of health benefits. One little cumin seed contains iron, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B1 and phosphorus.
Cumin promotes blood circulation and heart health, and improves digestion, too.
Recent research shows cumin powder can promote weight loss, reduce body fat, and lower LDL cholesterol levels. Cumin is rich in phytosterols—plant chemicals that reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the body. Like chilli and other hot spices, cumin is known to temporarily increase metabolic rate.
Cumin is commonly used in Indian and Mexican foods, but you could add it to lentils, soups and stews. Cumin tea is also a great way to take advantage of the spice’s weight loss effects.
5. Black Pepper
Black pepper is the most popular spice in the world, and is used in virtually every cuisine. Fortunately, it’s great for your health. Black pepper is antibacterial, and a rich source of manganese, iron, potassium, vitamin-C, vitamin K, and dietary fibre.
These are just some of the illnesses that can be treated with pepper: respiratory disorders, indigestion, anaemia, muscular strains, and heart disease.
Research suggests pepper might even help ward off breast cancer. Researchers are studying the benefits of piperine, a chemical compound in peppercorns, to inhibit the development of breast cancer tumours.
According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, nutmeg powder has potent antibacterial properties. It is a healthy spice that can help improve memory, improve heart health, relax muscles, and aid digestion.
Nutmeg can keep our brain sharp—studies show myristicin found in nutmeg may inhibit an enzyme in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Nutmeg also contains eugenol, a compound that has benefits for the heart.
If you’re frequently dealing with digestive issues, grind a little nutmeg into your soups and stews for quick relief. If not, it’s still healthy enough to add to your daily meals.
7. Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds, most commonly used in South Asian cuisines, are an excellent source of essential B vitamins such as folates, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins contribute to enzyme synthesis, functioning of the nervous system, and the regulation of metabolism. Mustard seeds also contain vitamin A, C and K.
Isothiocyanates, which are phytonutrients present in mustard seeds, are known for their anti-cancer benefits. Mustard seeds are also packed with flavonoid antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein that reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
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