Since time immemorial, humans have used spices to better their food and their bodies. Our ancestors knew which spices would settle an upset stomach, relieve inflammation, and more. Now studies have finally proven that whether you’ve got achy muscles, a cold that just won’t quit, or a case of the blues, reaching for a natural healer may be just what the doctor ordered.
CORIANDER (or CILANTRO) in its leafy form is a powerful bacteria fighter. The oil from coriander seeds (which destroys cells by damaging their membranes and interfering with cellular respiration) is effective in wiping out strains from E. coli to salmonella. You can add the seeds from everything from fruit salad to pasta. You can dry toast them for a minute and toss them with olive oil and quinoa.
CINNAMON may lower your diabetes risk by triggering enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors and inhibiting enzymes that deactivate them. It can improve cells’ ability to absorb glucose from the blood. It has also been found to reduce triglycerides and harmful cholesterol. I add about half a teaspoon to my coffee in the morning but you can also use it for savory dishes like lamb & tomato soup.
TUMERIC is thought to have cancer fighting properties. UCLA researchers have found that curcumin, an antioxidant in the spice, can help prevent and treat head and neck cancers by blocking a protein that promotes tumor growth. That same protein causes joint inflammation, so curcumin could also reduce arthritis risk. Use not only in Indian dishes but you can add a bit to lemonade for an extra dash of tartness or things like hummus for a sunny burst of color.
GARLIC helps protect your immune system by boosting production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Allicin, garlic’s main active component, is thought to block enzymes that lead to viral infections. We all know what we can use garlic on……almost everything. Try driizzling a head of garlic with olive oil, roast it, then squeeze and spread the cloves on your sandwiches.
SAFFRON might help alleviate mild to moderate mood depression. In a 2005 study, saffron supplements (didn’t know they did supplements) were as effective as a common anti-depressent in reducing depressive symptoms. In a 2008 study, 76 percent of women who took saffron capsules daily reported a 50 percent drop in PMS symptoms like mood swings and fatigue. Steep saffron in any liquid to infuse whatever you’re cooking with its flavor. I love it with rice or quinoa.
GINGER has anti-inflammatory properties. It blocks serotonin receptors in the small intestine so it can help keep you from feeling nauseated or throwing up. A study has shown that it also helps in reducing muscle pain from exercise. You can saute fresh ginger with veggies, fish or chicken. Steeping ginger in hot water is great for tea. Just add a bit of honey. I usually add it to fresh juice for a little zip.
Taken from “Feeling Good” an article by Nicole Frehsée for “O” Magazine.
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