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Spices With Health Benefits
by Chris Malone,posted Jun 25 2013 5:16AM
I found this list of spices that do more than make our food taste better. in fact many spices are good for our mood, memory and keeping us vibrant and young! Take a look!
Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse, with antioxidant properties that keep cells safe from oxidative stress and dangerous free radicals. Antioxidants help fight such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Parkinson's. What's more, cinnamon is a powerful weapon against cardiovascular problems. Cinnamon helps the hormone insulin work better, which reduces blood sugar levels. That's great news for the one in ten North Americans with type 2 diabetes and the millions more with prediabetes. Keeping blood sugar low can help treat diabetes or even stop it before it starts. Cinnamon may also help prevent Alzheimer's. A study in 2011 found that an extract from cinnamon bark inhibited the formation of amyloid plaques in mice with Alzheimer's. It even helped restore cognitive levels and correct movement problems in the animals.
It's hard to imagine continental cuisine without the aromatic addition of thyme. But its antimicrobial properties are what get researchers excited. If you've used Listerine or a similar mouthwash -- or even some green household cleaners -- chances are it contained thymol, a volatile oil component of thyme. A 2004 study showed that thyme oil was able to decontaminate lettuce with Shigella, a particularly nasty type of food poisoning, and other studies suggest it's also effective against staph and E. coli. Thyme is also a good digestion aid, helping to reduce gas and other discomfort, says Duke's Beth Reardon, and it's good for the scalp and hair.
Ginger has been used in both ancient and modern medicine for its stomach-settling properties. In a series of human and animal studies, ginger has been shown to help quiet nausea, speed food through the digestive tract, and protect against gastric ulcers. Small studies have also shown that ginger can help with pain, including menstrual cramps, muscle pain, and migraines. Ginger is also a powerful COX inhibitor, Reardon says, so it's a great choice for anyone with osteoarthritis or other chronic inflammatory conditions. It's best to check with your doctor before ingesting large quantities of ginger, though, since it can cause heartburn and gas, worsening of gallstone issues -- and it may interact with some medications, including warfarin.
Rosemary has been associated with memory since ancient Greece, when students would wear it in their hair when studying for big exams. Modern science agrees: Carnosic acid, a component of rosemary, is thought to protect the brain from free-radical damage and therefore to lower the risks of stroke and Alzheimer's. Rosemary is also full of antioxidants; a recent study from the American Association of Cancer Research linked carnosol, another component of rosemary, with inhibiting cancer growth. Like any herb, feel free to use rosemary in moderation. But check with your doctor before rushing out to buy rosemary supplements. In large quantities, it's been linked to seizures and inefficient iron absorption. And avoid serving a rosemary-heavy dish to a pregnant woman, since it's traditionally been used to induce abortion.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Grown mostly in the Middle East, saffron threads are actually the stigmas of a particular kind of crocus, each of which needs to be carefully gathered by hand. Still, its high price might be worth it for some of its health benefits. According to a 2007 animal study, saffron had antidepressant properties similar to Prozac. And a small human study in 2006 showed antidepressant effects higher than a placebo. Another study showed that saffron increased blood flow to the brain, which might help increase cognitive performance, and a 2009 study in Italy showed that saffron had beneficial effects on the genes regulating vision cells, potentially slowing or reversing degenerative eye diseases.
Basil, while often associated with Italian food, actually comes from India, where it's traditionally used to treat asthma, stress, and diabetes. Like thyme, basil has strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties, even against nasty bugs like Listeria and E. coli. Basil is a natural COX inhibitor, which means it's especially great for anyone with arthritis or other inflammatory health problems. Basil is also a great source of beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A, as well as magnesium, iron, and calcium. How much: Aim for a tablespoon of fresh basil or quarter to half a teaspoon of dried basil three times a week.
People have been cooking with chili peppers for a long time -- almost 10,000 years, according to archaeologists. Since then, they've been used for everything from spicing up food to deterring would-be attackers. Japanese karate athletes eat chili to strengthen their willpower, and African farmers use it to keep elephants away from their crops. Luckily, you don't need elephant-size quantities to get the health benefits of these potent peppers. Studies have shown that capsaicin, the active ingredient in peppers, works as a great topical pain reliever for headaches, arthritis, and other chronic pain problems. Capsaicin inhibits the release of P-protein, which in turn interrupts the transmission of constant pain signals to the brain. If you don't feel like smearing it on yourself, oral capsaicin has been linked to the release of endorphins and the regulation of blood sugar. And scientists have demonstrated anticancer properties in test tube studies.