‘Tis the season for eating, drinking, and being merry. It also can be the season for being healthy, especially if you choose to include specific ingredients in your recipes.
The November issue of Whole Living magazine highlights several spices that provide flavor as well as a health boost. These include:
- Cinnamon, which is believed to regulate sugar and cholesterol. Cinnamon oil also is a powerful antiseptic.
- Nutmeg, which improves digestion. When applied topically, nutmeg also soothes joint and muscle pain.
- Black pepper, which stimulates digestion, circulation, and perspiration. Black pepper also serves as a cooling agent.
- Red pepper flakes, which provide vitamins A and C and have been found to prevent ulcers and treat diarrhea.
- Curry powder, which is a spice blend. One component, fenugreek, relieves numerous health issues such as bronchitis to menstrual cramps. In addition, the turmeric in curry has potent antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage.
- Cumin, which is believed to effect pancreatic enzymes that handle detoxification.
One of my favorite cookbooks,“Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health” by Nina Simonds, incorporates many of these spices in the recipes. In addition, Simonds offers specific information about the health benefits of many spices and herbs. For instance, Simonds reports:
- Garlic has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, Ayurvedic doctors believe that garlic may lower cholesterol as well as blood pressure.
- Evidence exists that sesame seeds lower blood sugar levels. In addition, sesame seed oil is believed to have similar health benefits as those in olive oil.
- Cinnamon and star anise are often prescribed by Asian doctors to improve digestion and soothe the stomach.
- Ginger assists with digestion and prevents and cures nausea.
- Dill and dill seeds are used in Asia to relieve gas and improve digestion. In addition, dill’s essential oil relieves cramps and helps to settle colic. Dill also increases milk production in nursing mothers.
- Paprika is believed to aid digestion.
- Fennel seeds help to aid digestion.
- Coriander seed and fresh cilantro aid digestion and serve as diuretics.
- Cumin is believed to have anticancer properties and also aids digestion. It also reduces nausea.
- Thyme relieves coughing, bronchial spasms, mucous membrane inflammation and infected gums.
- Celery seed improves circulation, helps control blood sugar balance, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and is a diuretic and antiseptic.
- Asian doctors traditionally use hot chiles to increase the appetite and aid digestion.
Whole Living recommends choosing small quantities of whole spices over big jars of powder, since these often lose their flavor quickly. In addition, you should toss used spices after you’ve had them for two years.
Simonds also recognizes the health benefits of the following foods (which I’m sharing in this post because many people use these in holiday meals);
- Pumpkin and squash, which are rich in vitamins C and E as well as carotenes, help to prevent heart disease, stroke and cataracts. In addition, medical research has found that squashes contain coumarins, which help prevent certain types of cancers, including prostate cancer. Squashes’ antioxidants also help protect the body from colds and flues.
- Shiitake or black mushrooms include the component lentinan, which strengthens the immune system and helps the body to fight off disease.
- Fennel bulbs help to improve digestion. In addition, fresh fennel is rich with the phytonutrient limonene, which may aid in preventing certain types of cancer.
- Beans, whether dried or fresh, are rich in soluble fiber. They aid in lowering cholesterol levels, thus helping to prevent heart disease. Furthermore, they help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Asparagus is a natural diuretic.
- Onions help to combat diabetes, high blood sugar levels, and allergies. In addition, onions are a diuretic and help protect against angina.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to think about what additions you can make to your dishes that will offer extra healthy benefits. Your guests will be thankful you did so.
Published On: November 22, 2010