In the United States, where most people rely largely on processed or pre-packaged foods, spices really take a back seat. Instead, manufacturers of these products tend to rely on salt, fat and sugar to make their foods palatable, mostly because this is cheaper than using spices or fresh ingredients to make food taste good.
However, relying on fat, sugar and salt to make food taste good not only makes weight gain (and the health problems associated with it) more likely, it also makes it difficult to take advantage of all the health benefits that spices can bring with them. Below is a list of some of the healthiest spices out there – and the benefits they can literally bring to the table.
Cinnamon not only adds wonderful flavor to a variety of dishes, it has been shown in clinical studies to provide many health benefits. These include lower levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, higher levels of good HDL cholesterol, and better control of blood sugar levels for diabetics. (1)
The active compounds in rosemary have been shown to help reduce the kind of cellular mutations that can be a precursor to cancer. They have also been shown to help protect the health of blood vessels, thus reducing the chances of a heart attack. Rosemary is great for chicken, pasta and potatoes. (2)
Garlic is amazing: it can boost the immune system, reducing the chance of certain cancers and improve heart health through positive effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is wonderful in pastas, salads, casseroles and soups. (3)
Cayenne pepper’s active ingredient, capsaicin, has been proven to be as effective as over-the-counter medications at controlling pain and reducing inflammation for diseases like arthritis. Try it in Mexican or Indian dishes or sprinkled over meat or vegetables to give them a little kick.(4)
Ginger is not just a great remedy for nausea – its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can also help conditions like arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. It pairs well with stir-fries, sprinkled on sweet potatoes or with fresh fruit. (5)
Oregano’s active compounds are incredibly strong antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the cells done by free radicals and can also help prevent cancer and slow the aging process. It is great in Italian or Greek dishes or fresh on vegetables or in salads. (6)
Most people associate this sweet Indian spice with chai tea. It is a great natural detoxifier and also has displayed anti-carcinogenic properties. Add it to chicken, rice or tofu dishes to spice them up. (7)
All of these spices will add wonderful new flavor and depth to even the most humdrum foods. More than that, however, they will bring some seriously powerful health benefits that simply cannot be had from foods which are made more palatable simply by adding more sugar and fat.
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