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Picture it. You’re walking through the grocery store and you come up to the spices aisle. You just remembered hearing something on your favorite morning talk show saying that you should take cinnamon supplements because it makes you healthy. What do you do? It seems that spices and herbal supplements are always being talked about whether it’s on TV, the radio, or even coming from your doctor. It starts to become confusing and you may begin to ask yourself, “What do I believe?” Let’s explore what herbs and spices are all about, the possible health benefits, and ways to sneak them into your everyday meals.
If you’re not savvy in the kitchen or don’t love grocery shopping, you may be wondering what is the difference between herbs and spices? Herbs and spices come from a variety of plants and from different parts of each plants. They can be purchased dried, fresh, or even as seeds and plants. You can choose to grow your own plants as well. Herbs, such as basil, parsley and cilantro are garden plants that are grown and harvested for culinary, aromatic and medicinal uses. Spices are typically any other part of the plan besides the leaf. It can be the bark (cinnamon), the roots (ginger), aromatic seeds (cumin), buds (cloves), or berries (peppercorns).
Spices and herbs have been around for centuries. Their documented use goes back 5000 years! But what is the truth about spices? If you’re ready to add some spice to your life here are some commonly used spices, what research is saying about their potential health benefits, and some easy tips to include them in your diet:
Turmeric was used as early as 3000 B.C. Due to its high anti-inflammatory properties turmeric has been shown to help improve several disorders such as liver and lung damage, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Tips to use: Try adding a teaspoon to the cooking water when you make rice. It adds a pop of color to your plate! Toss a few teaspoons with olive oil and pepper to roast any of your favorite vegetables.
Ginger comes from a root and contains a compound called gingerol. Gingerol has been thought to relieve pain and decrease hypertension. Ginger is also a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to be effective treatment for an upset stomach.
Tips to use: Add a dash of ginger to your smoothie or tea for a little kick. You can also add it to roasted nuts or seeds for some extra flavor.
Garlic has been linked with improving heart disease by decreasing your bad cholesterol. One study found that just eating 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic daily may have a cholesterol lowering effect of up to 9%.
Tips to use: Garlic has a powerful taste. Try grilling it! Grill garlic on your outdoor grill, place a few peeled cloves on foil and drizzle with oil. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until tender and add it to any salad dressing or sauce you'd like.
Cinnamon is known as a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes (in large amounts).
Tips to use: Shake some cinnamon over your hot or cold cereal in the morning. Or you can add a sprinkle to your morning coffee instead of sugar.
As you can see, spices offer more than just flavor. They offer ways to help improve our health! Just try a simple shake or spoonful the next time you’re in the kitchen to add endless flavor to your food!