Benefits of Spices
There are so many benefits of spices and they have been used throughout the world for centuries as flavour-enhancers for food, as a form of trade and as a traditional way to improve health and inhibit disease.
In more recent times, scientific research has validated many of the health benefits offered by spices that traditional medicine has been claiming for years.
It is interesting to note that in countries where spices are used on a daily basis in virtually all meals, the incidence of various diseases tends to be significantly lower than in countries where spices aren't consumed as regularly.
Of course, dietary factors, activity levels, stress and environmental factors also play roles, but it appears that the consumption of spices (or lack thereof) may be a major factor.
With the massive and ever-growing body of research now demonstrating the health benefits of spices it simply makes sense that they are consumed on a daily basis if you have an interest in improving your health and reducing your risk of disease.
Here are some of the most popular,
health-promoting spices available:
Ginger has been used throughout the world for thousands of years to help reduce the feeling of nausea resulting from a range of causes including: motion sickness, morning sickness, brain injury, Addison's disease, medication, and food poisoning.
Not only does ginger offer powerful anti-nausea effects but research has also shown that there are many other benefits of ginger. For example, it acts as an antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory effects, is anti-bacterial, anti-viral as well as having general anti-disease effects.
Studies have shown that ginger reduces the pain experienced by people suffering from osteoarthritis. There is also a solid body of research with cells and animals demonstrating that ginger is anti-cancer. Furthermore, when ginger is combined with feverfew it has been shown to reduce the severity of migraines. It has been also shown to offer clinical improvements in asthma symptoms.
Since ginger has been shown to significantly reduce gastric emptying, it may also be beneficial for people who suffer from heartburn and stomach aches.
For people suffering from high cholesterol levels and who may be at risk of heart disease, ginger may be just what they need! Research indicates that by taking 1 gram of ginger daily, LDL ('bad' cholesterol) decreases and HDL ('good' cholesterol) increases. It also provides blood-thinning effects, which may also contribute to a reduced heart disease risk.
Ginger may be including in sauces and dips, rubbed in to meat to add flavour and tenderise it, grated over noodles, and added to desserts.
Ginger is a great example of the health benefits of spices.
Fennels seeds come from the flowers of the fennel plant and carry the scent of liquorice. They are often used in Italian sausages and pepperoni pizza and may be added to a variety of foods to enhance their flavour.
There is a significant amount of research that has been conducted on fennel seed and it certainly does offer some very useful benefits.
In fact, several studies have shown that fennel seed is more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs when it comes to relieving the pain associated with menstrual cramps.
Another group of have shown that fennel seed can eliminate colic in the majority of treated babies and may therefore, reduce their crying time significantly. Therefore, it may offer welcome relief not only to babies but also to mothers everywhere!
Since fennel seed acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it may help reduce the risk of a whole range of diseases including: Alzheimer's disease, dementia, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, inflammatory bowel disease and glaucoma. This is another example of the health benefits of spices.
It may seem ironic that a spicy-sweet herb can help to stabilise blood sugar, but such is the main characteristic of cinnamon.
The incidence of type 2 diabetes continues to increase throughout the world. This of course, may lead to a range of major health problems including, heart disease, stroke, peripheral neuropathy (damage to nerves in fingers and toes, and that may require amputation), blindness, kidney damage and many more.
A study in the US found that taking 1 gram of cinnamon a day significantly reduced the level of glycosylated haemoglobin (red blood cells frosted by blood sugar). This is the most accurate measurement of long-term blood sugar control.
Another found that cinnamon decreased fasting blood sugar levels, LDL 'bad' cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Furthermore, Swedish researchers found that cinnamon lowered spikes in blood sugar that generally occur after a meal. This is believed to occur because it improves the insulin sensitivity of cell membranes.
There are many other health benefits of cinnamon as well. Most notably of which, is its powerful bacteria and fungi-fighting ability. It has been shown to stop the growth of strains of Candida albicans (the fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections) as well as Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers).
There are several other promising areas of research on the health benefits of cinnamon including: cancer, whereby it has been shown to slow angiogenesis (the growth of cancer blood vessels), protects brain cells, and improves wound healing.
There are a countless number of ways to include cinnamon in your daily diet. Some of which may include: adding it to hot chocolate, coffee or tea, sprinkled on fruit, mixing with ground beef, adding to spiced wine, and including it in a stew or soup.
Cloves have always been a popular spice, particularly when used for enhancing the flavour of dishes. They can be studded to onions and then added to stews, included in a pot roast, used as an ingredient in Christmas pudding and apple tart and are a key ingredient in mulled wine.
There are many benefits of spices, including cloves, particularly when it comes to pain relief. In fact, a team of researchers found that 'oil of clove' is just as powerful as benzocaine when it comes to numbing oral tissue before a dentist does their work.
The active ingredient in cloves, eugenol, has been shown to be more effective than antibiotics in stopping the growth of Helicobacter Pylori (the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers). Plus, the patients didn't experience any side effects and the bacteria didn't develop a resistance to it, which is often what happens with antibiotics.
Cloves also demonstrate anti-viral effects with researchers showing that it stops the replication of the virus that causes cold sores (HSV-1) and genital herpes (HSV-2). It has also been shown to inhibit the hepatitis C virus.
Eugenol (the active ingredient in cloves) acts as a blood-thinning agent, which is more powerful than aspirin. It has also been shown to stop cancer cells from multiplying.
Turmeric is plant belonging to the ginger family and is native to southern Asia. It is probably one of the most well-researched spices with well over 3,500 published research studies. it is probably the best example of the health benefits of spices
Curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric, has been shown to offer a wide range of health benefits of spices. Some of the benefits of turmeric include: exhibiting antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-malarial, analgesic, insect-repelling, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer activities. It also has potential to offer benefits against malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and other chronic illnesses.
Turmeric is often used as a spice in curries and may be added to stir-fries, rice dishes, seafood, and vegetables.
The amazing number of health benefits of spices means they should be consumed every day. However, if you find it difficult to include them in your diet on a regular basis (and therefore receive all the benefits of spices), it may be easier to consume them in supplemental form.
All of the spices mentioned in this article are found in BCN's MultiSpice. Turmeric may also be found in
BCN's Relieve Turmeric Forte, and
All of these supplements are available from health food stores and pharmacies everywhere.
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