We know spices help to make our dishes more delicious, but did you know certain spices can also help you bump up your immune system, heart health and help you fight pain and inflammation? While fresh spices are preferred, dried and crushed spices also have exceptional benefits. Let’s see what shakes out.
CAYENNE PEPPER: The ingredient that makes this pepper taste so hot is capsaicin. It not only gives your dishes a kick but acts as a natural stimulant that improves circulation. This is especially true for extremities that are often desensitized by the effects of diabetes. And there’s more: Cayanne pepper is a digestive aid which helps create hydrochloric acid necessary for the breakdown of food in the stomach.
CINNAMON: This tasty spice, so yummy on toast, hot chocolate or coffee, also containsanti-inflammatory compounds that help alleviate pain and soreness. What’s more, recent studies show cinnamon may help to improve the cells’ ability to take in glucose and lower blood sugar in diabetics. Plus, it lowers triglycerides and LDL or the so-called “bad” cholesterol. It’s best to take cinnamon in a liquid extract (you can find it in your local health food store) but the kind you sprinkle (without sugar) is also beneficial.
OREGANO: Most of us shake it into our pasta sauce or on top of pizza; now add a few more shakes. Why? Because oregano has42 times more antioxidant power than apples and 12 times more than oranges. The rosmarinic acid, a compound in oregano, is a strong cancer fighter and the anti-inflammatory properties of oregano help support joint function and may also help to alleviate the pain of arthritis. It's also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, most of which are lacking in many American diets.
TURMERIC: This spice was often used in India to treat arthritis because of its ability to lower inflammation. Some evidence indicates that turmeric can also help to prevent cancerous tumors.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's health reporter. Please check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."