Spice Up Your Life
Herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years for their medicinal and culinary properties. So why not add some spice to your meals for extra taste and enjoy some health benefits at the same time?
Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, an oily compound, which gives cinnamon its distinct and aromatic flavour in cooking but is also responsible for the associated health benefits of cinnamon. Studies have shown that cinnamon is one of the best naturally occurring antioxidants, in fact, it was rated No1 antioxidant in a test of 25 of the most popular herbs and medicinal spices[i]. Antioxidants prevent tissue and cell damage in the body caused by oxidative damage from free radicals. Free radicals have been linked to advancing the ageing process, heart disease, neurological disorders including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers and many other conditions[ii].
With its strong anti-inflammatory properties cinnamon has been used for pain relief and pain management, it can help swelling and inflammation. It is believed to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart diseases, PMS, the severity of allergic reactions and has been proven to reduce muscle soreness. Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor in many age-related diseases.
With its reputation for being able to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, it is considered to have an anti-diabetic effect. The results of a study to determine whether cinnamon improves blood glucose, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes reported that 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon per day reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes and suggests that the inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases[iii].
Many people associate ginger with being good for the digestive system, it is renowned for being a natural remedy used to help with cases of nausea and morning sickness.
It’s fresh and vibrant taste can add warmth and strength of flavour to many recipes. A slice of fresh ginger served in a mug of warm water, and a squeeze of lemon is a great way to get the gastric juices flowing in the morning, flushing out the kidneys and digestive system, supporting liver function and is full of wonderful antioxidants. People suffering from constipation and bloating may find ginger beneficial because it helps to relax the smooth muscle of the gut lining and allows food to move smoothly through the digestive system, promoting regular digestion and the correct metabolism of food[iv].
It is recognised that chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can accelerate the ageing process. Believed to be some of the major contributors to Alzheimer’s disease and age-related decline in brain function. Some studies show that ginger can inhibit inflammatory responses in the brain[v] and in a study of 60 middle-aged women, ginger extract was shown to improve reaction time and working memory[vi] [vii].
Ginger has also been shown to be an effective antibacterial against certain bacterial infections and for respiratory infections. Its warming properties are attributed to preventing the build-up of toxins in the body which may make people susceptible to infections; it is considered to be able to boost the immune system.
You may be familiar with turmeric as the spice that gives its yellow colour to curry but did you know that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant? Not only that, but it has also been shown to play a role in increasing fat burning in the body and reducing fat storage. It has been accredited with reducing blood pressure, and blood glucose levels so may have a role in helping with type 2 diabetes.
With its potent anti-inflammatory effects, it has been used by many people to help with arthritis pain and may help reduce the risk of heart disease. It has been found to help with digestive issues and diseases such as Chrons Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis[viii]. Cancer Research has been looking into the use of turmeric in relation to cancer and found in a trial situation that turmeric prevented pre-cancerous cells from turning into cancerous cells.
These health benefit properties are due to curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, it is curcumin that is responsible for many of the health benefits associated with turmeric. However, curcumin is not easily absorbed by the human body, but by taking curcumin with black pepper, the rate of absorption significantly increases. Piperine is the compound in black pepper that enables the curcumin to be more easily absorbed. Curcumin is also fat soluble so taking it with a fat such as coconut oil will increase the rate of absorption.
There’s so much more to spices than just tasting good. So why not spice up your food, add vibrant and beautiful colours, aromatic aromas and exciting flavours and enjoy a sense of wellbeing as well.
[i] Source. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Oct 5;53(20):7749-59. Shan B, Cai YZ, Sun M, Corke H. Antioxidant capacity of 26 spice extracts and characterization of their phenolic constituents.
[ii] Source: © 2014 P. V. Rao and S. H. Gan. Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant
[iii] Source: 2003. Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA..Department of Human Nutrition, NWFP Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes.
[v] 2014. Faizul Azam, Abdualraham M Amer, Abudulla R Abulifa, Mustafa m Elzwawi. Ginger components as new leads for the design and development of novel multi-targeted anti-Alzheimer’s drugs: a computational investigation.
[vi] 2011. Naritsara Saenghong, Jintanaporn Wattanathorn, Supaporn Muchimapura, terdthai Tongun, Nawanant Piyayhatkul, Chuleratana Banchonglikitkul, tanwarat kajsongkram. Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women