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What are the health benefits of spices?30th May 2018
There are many foods that can benefit your health, but we don’t often think of the herb and spice cupboard as holding anything particularly special. It turns out, however, that there are many excellent ingredients in spices that can not only benefit our health but also improve ailments and reduce symptoms of other health problems. Read on to discover more about the health benefits of spices.
There are many spices that we can use in cooking and they all have their own special properties. From ginger to turmeric and paprika to cinnamon, every spice has its own distinct aroma, taste and health-giving properties.
One of the very best spices for our health is curry powder. This spicy powder can be added to all curry dishes and contains a number of ingredients that have been proven to boost our health. Curry powder contains curcumin and turmeric, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties. These properties can help to reduce inflammation inside the body and fight against free radicals; in fact, some ingredients in curry powder are 50 times more powerful than vitamin C.
This spice has been shown to fight cancer cells, particularly breast cancer cells and colon cancer cells. Not only can you use curry powder to create a curry out of virtually any ingredients but also it is extremely powerful as a healthy spice.
Related to curry powder, cumin is another powerful spice often found in curries. Cumin is rich in iron, which gives you strength and keeps your immune system in top shape. Cumin has also been shown to improve memory function with its brain-protecting properties, making this a great spice to eat in the days before a test or exam.
Cinnamon is a delicious spice that can often be found in Middle Eastern savoury dishes and in desserts. There are many powerful antioxidants in cinnamon that have been shown to help the body to metabolise sugar. This means it can be helpful in the fight against diabetes, helping to regulate the blood sugar and preventing those exhausting peaks and dips of energy. Research has shown that just half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily reduces the risk factors associated with heart disease in less than six weeks.
Cayenne pepper is a spicy, hot pepper that many people love; however, others find it too potent for their taste! This spice contains capsaicin, which is a red-hot chemical and gives the pepper its ‘hot’ effect. This spice increases your metabolism when you eat it; therefore, it can be useful as a weight loss aid. Research has also shown that people who consume cayenne pepper have a reduced appetite for their next meal and tend to consume fewer calories.
Cayenne pepper is also great for use as a detox for the body, as it has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties and can help the body to fight off illnesses by boosting the immune system. It has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of migraine.
The stomach-settling properties of ginger are well known and this spice is often used as a remedy for nausea and morning sickness; it also has a number of other benefits that are not as well known. Ginger is very good for reducing muscle soreness, making this an ideal spice to eat after a hard workout. The chemical gingerol, which is found in ginger, can also reduce inflammation.
Apart from the physical benefits, ginger has been shown to improve the memory and help to improve concentration. Ginger has also been shown to help reduce the symptoms of arthritis, with patients who take ginger extract supplements noticing significantly reduced symptoms. Ginger can be used in many forms, including fresh, dried and as an oil, and it is worth experimenting to see which variety works best with your cooking routine.
Many people only think about nutmeg at Christmas, as this spice is often associated with wintery seasonal dishes. Nutmeg is antibacterial, which is always good news for the body. It helps to fight harmful bacteria in your mouth and the rest of the body after ingestion. Nutmeg has been shown to reduce plaque formation by 50 per cent, while its anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to protect against cancer.
Paprika is used in many dishes and this rich red powder always adds a spicy kick to any meal Paprika contains a powerful set of vitamins, including vitamin A, E, C, B complex and K. It also contains plenty of minerals, such as calcium and zinc. Paprika can come in mild, medium or flaming hot versions, so you will be able to find one to suit your taste and your cooking preferences. Paprika is made from ground bell peppers and chilli peppers, while the lower amount of capsaicin in it means it is not as hot as chilli powder or cayenne pepper. Paprika has plenty of antioxidants and can improve the condition of your skin and hair, while also lowering the blood pressure.
Coriander, which is often thought of as a herb, has a strong spicy flavour, which is why it is used in a lot of curries and foreign dishes. This spice is packed full of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and vitamin K. Coriander has been shown to treat inflammation, reduce cholesterol, reduce mouth ulcers and help with all sorts of health problems, including menstrual disorders. Coriander also contains essential oils, acids and minerals that help the body to function at its optimum level. Benefits of coriander include improved digestion and reduced blood pressure, while its natural antiseptic properties can prevent or heal mouth ulcers. It is naturally antibacterial, so can also be used to freshen the breath.
Spices are an excellent addition to your food cabinet because they contain all sorts of beneficial minerals, vitamins and other ingredients needed by the body. Even a very small amount of certain spices can make a huge difference to your health and give you a vital boost of vitamins. Some people believe that spices can be potent cancer-fighting additions to your diet and there is a lot of research to back up the idea that spices can make an enormous improvement to your health if you are feeling unwell or suffering from an illness.
How to look after your spices
It is important look after your spices to keep them in the best condition and ensure optimum health benefits when you come to eat them. Remember to store spices in a cool, dark and dry place, such as a cupboard with a closed door. This helps to make sure your spices retain their nutritional benefits and stops their aroma dispersing into other drawers and cupboards, as their smell can be quite potent. Another tip is to keep an eye on the use-by date, as spices beyond their use-by might not be as powerful as fresher spices. If there is no use-by date on the label, it is best to throw away dried spices after two years and whole spices after three years.
It is always best to try to buy whole spices and grind them yourself using a pestle and mortar, as this retains the best flavour and health properties.