Top 5 Secretly Healthy Spices

This month we’re looking at the ultimate cupboard staples – spices. As well as the power to completely transform the flavour of a dish, some of them have added health benefits, too. Spices and herbs have been used for centuries to cure an array of ailments, and we’ve picked out the top five that you should be keeping on hand for both delicious dishes, and maybe even to help with some illnesses.
While many of these spices often require using larger quantities than you would find in your food to see any beneficial health effects, there are often supplements available containing these ingredients in controlled doses. With studies supporting the old wives’ tales of the medicinal properties of these spices, if you’re looking to try plant-based medicines, some of these could work for you. Bear in mind that before you make any changes to prescribed medication, you should seek the advice of your doctor for a professional opinion.

1. Garlic

Enjoyed by most, garlic is used as both a spice and a herb, but is actually part of the lily family. As well as being a delicious addition to many savoury dishes, garlic also boasts some useful health attributes. Studies have found that it can help lower blood pressure, whether it is in the form of supplements, powders or extracts. Garlic has also been reported to help reduce the symptoms of colds, though more studies need to be carried out to find how effective this is – but it’s a great excuse to eat plenty of garlic bread when ill, so why not give it a go?

2. Turmeric

With its vibrant yellow colour, Turmeric is native to India, both for its flavour, colour and medicinal uses. With ayurvedic properties, turmeric is famed for containing curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric also helps to aid digestion and fight oxidative damage with its antioxidant values, and has been known to help decrease the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and can be useful in preventing and treating cancer, reportedly. You could add it to a savoury dish; enjoy it as tea or even a trendy turmeric latte.

3. Ginger

Ginger is widely used in different cuisines, and has been known to help treat nausea. Studies have found that just one gram of the spice could effectively remedy illness, with morning sickness, sea sickness and the effects of chemotherapy being examples of where ginger successfully helped ease the symptoms. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that are comparable to aspirin; one study looking at the risk of colon cancer found that two grams of the spice each day reduced colon inflammation the same way as aspirin.

4. Cayenne Pepper

A member of the deadly nightshade family, cayenne pepper is closely related to bell peppers and jalapeños; the spice packs a punch and originates from Central and South America. It also has a wide range of medical uses, such as migraine prevention, helping digestion, detoxing, soothing toothache and anti-fungal properties. One of the general health benefits of cayenne pepper is its metabolism-boosting capability; by increasing your body’s temperature and burning more calories
through the process of thermogenesis, it could help in achieving a healthy weight. However, consuming it regularly causes the body to adapt to the effects, therefore making
it less beneficial.

5. Cinnamon

One of the most popular spices around the world, cinnamon doesn’t just taste amazing, but has a host of health benefits, too. It contains cinnamaldehyde, which helps to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar. It does this by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, and improving insulin efficiency, though more studies are needed to prove whether this is useful for people with type 2 diabetes.

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