Spice up your health

Jul 28, 2013

Many of us try to stay healthy by eating things like fresh fruits and steamed vegetables, but are there any health benefits from what you find in your spice rack? This week on “Take Care,” we talk to Denise Foley, editor at large for Prevention magazine and author of five books, including the Women’s Encyclopedia of Health and Emotional Healing, about the health effects of spices.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Denise Foley.

We’ve all heard the old wives tales that ginger can help calm your stomach and chili powder can help clear your sinuses, but as it turns out, more and more of these tales are actually true.

“When I first started in this business they were old folk tales and somehow, somewhere out in the world of science they decided to figure out ‘well do these things really work?’ and they are really the subject of quite a number of research studies over the last five, 10 years,” she said.

Foley said the two spices that have received the most attention for possible health benefits recently are cinnamon and turmeric.

Dried spices provide the same health benefits as fresh spices, says Foley. But some studies of spices have recommended taking amounts that may be challenging to consume. Foley recommends that you look for spices in capsule form when that's the case.

Here of some of the spices Foley says are most beneficial for your health:

  • Cinnamon: recently, scientists found that cinnamon may help keep your blood sugar low by mimicking the effects of insulin in your body. Foley said that some doctors suggest that some diabetic patients have a teaspoon of cinnamon on their oatmeal for breakfast, but you should consult your doctor if you are on insulin.
  • Turmeric: many people may not be familiar with the 4,000-year-old spice, but it’s what makes curries and mustards yellow. Turmeric has a substance in it called curcumin, which is an antioxidant and may help reduce the effects of aging. Some studies show curcumin may be effective against tumors, especially cancers of the esophagus, mouth, intestines, stomach and skin. It is also an anti-flammatory that has fewer side effects than other pain relievers and may even reduce your cholesterol.
  • Ginger: the tales are true! Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that is good for easing stomach aches and nausea.
  • Parsley: this spice is not just a garnish. High in vitamin C, parsley may help protect against rheumatoid arthritis. Parsley also contains a lot of folic acid and can help reduce homocysteine, which could be a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Oregano: dried oregano, is supposed to help reduce respiratory tract disorders like coughing, asthma and bronchitis. Sometimes, oil of oregano can cause allergic reactions, so it’s best to eat dried rosemary leaves or raw rosemary, which Foley says is delicious. And, oil of oregano is a natural incest repellant.
  • Rosemary: this super spice helps stimulate the immune system and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Foley says that rosemary may also improve your brain’s focus and concentration. Rosemary is also beneficial to reduce the amount of cancer causing substances created when you grill meat, so you might want to try a little next time you make burgers.