Spices For Optimal Health
Spices are a great way to season and flavor your food, but that's not where the benefits stop most spices and herbs have researched disease fighting compounds which can be used to achieve optimal health. Spices have been used for centuries for there medicinal benefits as well as to flavor food. Many will probably have heard about the potential anti-cancer properties of turmeric or how cinnamon helps those with diabetes. But there are many lesser known spices which have a host of great health benefits.
Spices and to a lesser degree herbs get such a bad reputation by some in the raw food and natural hygiene movements. Often the argument is that they are "medicinal or symptom suppressors" because they have specific actions on changing body chemistry. Take for example cinnamon's anti-fungal properties. Ive always found this notion funny because many of the same compounds which give these spices and herbs there beneficial properties are often the same ones contained in fruits and vegetables which seem to bypass this crazy view. Its a pretty flawed and silly outlook in my opinion, lets take raspberries for example which have documented anti-microbial properties, are raspberries now "symptom suppressors" which should be avoided, course not.
There are so many individual benefits of each spice that it would take more than a blog article to list everyone of them. We will try and list most of the main spices and benefits which have the most research and evidence to back them up. So we'll start with one of my favorite Indian spices which is known as Turmeric.
Turmeric is one of the more popular spices, mainly used in Indian cuisine. The active ingredient in Turmeric is Curcumin. Turmeric has been the subject of much research and studies into its benefits mostly its anti-cancer properties.
Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and has other benefits such as anti-bacterial, anti-septic/microbial, liver protectant and bile flow stimulant, digestive aid, prevent and slow the growth of various cancers, improve blood flow, lowers cholesterol, benefits and prevents Alzheimer's disease and much more. Thus making turmeric an important addition in staving off a variety of different diseases and conditions. Turmeric is currently being researched for its possible benefits against diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, arthritis and other disorders.
If you like your food hot then you likely have cayenne pepper on hand in your spice rack. The chemical which gives cayenne its hotness is known as capsaicin. Cayenne peppers are a great source of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene which has a host of benefits on its own. Capsaicin has shown potential cancer benefits in prostate, lung and other cancers by undergoing apoptosis which means programmed cell death(i.e suicide of the cell).
Capsaicin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. It works by inhibiting Substance P, which is associated with inflammatory processes. This makes cayenne pepper useful for a variety of inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease(IBD), pain relief, headaches and much more. Cayenne also has a host of other benefits such as being a strong digestive aid, being able to clear congested nasal passages, helping chronic sinus infections(sinusitis), is used as a topical pain relief aswell as internally as we learned above, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and may help you to burn fat and lose weight.
Cinnamon is another popular spice which has been subject to a fair amount of research mostly surrounding its possible benefits for diabetes sufferers. Cinnamon is a good source of manganese, iron, calcium and dietary fiber. Cinnamon's healing properties come from the essential oils found in the bark. These oils contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a wide range of other volatile substances.
Cinnamon has a range of health benefits such as strong anti-microbial properties in particular cinnamon is a very effective anti-fungal even against the pathogenic fungal form of candida. Cinnamon has been studied for its benefits in the treatment of diabetes type 2 mellitus, blood sugar control and insulin resistance. One study showed that even smelling cinnamon had the ability to boost brain and cognitive function. Cinnamaldehyde has been well researched for its anti-clotting properties which help to increase blood flow by not allowing blood to clump together. Some other benefits are the ability to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, anti-inflammatory and reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
If these benefits weren't enough cinnamon is also a very powerful antioxidant and only rates second to cloves in spices which were tested for there anti-oxidant properties.
Cloves main active component is called eugenol. Cloves are a good source of manganese, omega-3, vitamin K, C, magnesium, calcium, fiber and cloves own unique phyto-nutrients. Cloves have a wide range of health benefits from anti-inflammatory properties, potent anti-microbial effects, good for digestive ailments, anti-septic and anti-spasmodic, analgesic, immune boost and possible anti-cancer properties.
Cloves are considered one of the best if not the best natural antioxidants due to its high ORAC(Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score of 314,446.
Cumin is another common spice that you probably have in your spice rack if you've been making vegan chili etc. Cumin seeds are a very good source of iron per weight, which is good news for vegans trying to obtain sufficient iron levels. Cumin is a great digestive aid relieving symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, gas and diarrhea. Research has shown that cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes so this would go hand in hand with cumin being a digestive aid. Other benefits include anti-septic, anti-microbial, stimulate appetite, increasing lactation and useful for skin disorders such as boils.
Research has shown cumin may have anti-carcinogenic properties, one study cumin was shown to protect laboratory animals from developing stomach or liver tumors. Cumin was also shown to enhance the liver's detoxification enzymes.
Cardamom is an aromatic indian spice which has a range of health benefits. Cardamom obtains its medicinal benefits from its essential volatile oils it contains. Some of the benefits of cardamom are digestive aid and ailments such as flatulence and gas, the seeds are a great mouth freshener, anti-septic, antispasmodic, anti-oxidant, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic.
Cardamom is also thought to have aphrodisiac qualities making it useful for those suffering from low libido or impotence.
Oregano is an aromatic spice which belongs to the mint family. Oregano derives most of its benefits from its volatile oil and phyto-nutrient content. Oregano has some great health benefits such as anti-bacterial/viral properties, potent anti-oxidant activity which was shown to be 42 times more powerful than apples, anti-inflammatory, respiratory health, possible anti-cancer properties, strengthen the immune system and much more.
Oregano is a very nutrient dense spice and is a great source of vitamin K, A, C, minerals such as manganese, iron and calcium. Whilst being a good source omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.
Rosemary is a fragrant and pungent spice which has great health benefits not to mention its wonderful use of flavoring food. Rosemary is a good source of the minerals iron and calcium whilst having a good dietary fiber content. Rosemary has benefits such as being a great digestive aid, stimulating the immune system, improving circulation, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, diuretic, balances hormones through phyto-estrogen content and encourages detoxification enzymes.
There are many spices which are also classed as herbs such as sage, garlic, ginger, parsley etc, which we will be doing an article on in the coming future. I wanted to keep this article more on the focus of ground spices even though some of the above can also be ground and used as a spice.
To read more on vegan diet and alternative health please visit http://www.vegankingdom.co.uk
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