Spice Up Your Diet to Prevent Disease

Laura Brieser-SmithAdding herbs and spices to your foods can certainly take an otherwise bland tasting diet and turn it into an explosion of flavors. Current research shows that many of these herbs and spices can keep you healthy, too. Here is the latest information on what they can do for you.

Cinnamon has been in the news many times over the last several years being touted as having the ability to lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. While the data has been inconsistent (some studies show more promising results than others), the overall consensus still remains that cinnamon is effective. As little as a teaspoonÕs worth spread throughout the day can have a significant impact on glucose and cholesterol.

The benefits of curry powder are all due to one of its main ingredients Ð turmeric. This spice not only provides curryÕs yellow color, but it also has been shown to stop cancerous tumor growth and promote tumor cell breakdown, especially with colon cancer. Turmeric also has the distinction of reducing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and AlzheimerÕs disease.

Oregano is both a powerful antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent. In terms of antioxidant properties, it beats out most other herbs, as well as apples and oranges in antioxidant activity. It has also been shown to reduce swelling, at least in mice, due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Some researchers believe that rosemary can block dangerous carcinogenic compounds found in some foods, such as red meat. While more research needs to be done to find out how much needs to be consumed (some studies have used potent extracts of the herb), many scientists are encouraging the use of rosemary when preparing meats.

Both sage and thyme are thought to maintain brain function. As the brain ages, the fats found there may oxidize and become hardened, leading to impaired function. Sage and thyme have been shown to minimize fat oxidation and improve the brain function for those with mild to moderate dementia. In addition, sage oil has been shown to improve mood and may act as a mild antidepressant.

Keep in mind that the amounts of these herbs and spices that are used in daily cooking may not be enough to see maximum benefits. However, as with many other things in life, even a little bit may beneficial.

Laura Brieser-Smith, RD, MPH, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices. She can be reached at 303-635-1131 or at hlthydsign@aol.com.

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