Man has been using spices for thousands of years, and the desire for exotic seasonings spurred world trade and exploration. But in addition to making food taste great, modern science has discovered that spices are potent sources of antioxidants and other nutrients that help fight numerous diseases.
Check out these spices, and find out how adding them to your diet can improve your health:
• Cinnamon. Research has shown cinnamon reduces inflammation and may help treat Type 2 diabetes by lowering sugar levels. Also, a study presented at a meeting of the Association for Chemoreception found that simply smelling cinnamon boosted several areas in the brain involved in everything from memory to attention and focus.
• Cloves. Cloves have been used as a treatment for toothache long before modern dentistry. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help ease the pain and stiffness of arthritis. A recent Japanese study found that cloves helped suppress the growth of E. coli.
• Cumin. Cumin has been used for centuries to help digestion and fight bloating, but modern science has discovered cumin contains unique phytochemicals that spur a protective enzyme that helps protect the body against cancer. According to Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of "Mind Boosters," cumin may also inhibit blood clots and be beneficial in fighting diabetes.
• Garlic. Numerous studies have detailed garlic's cardiovascular benefits, which include lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Some studies have suggested that garlic inhibits the development and progression of prostate, breast, colon, stomach, esophageal, and skin cancers in test tubes and in animals.
• Ginger. Ginger contains antioxidants and has been used as a treatment for nausea for hundreds of years. Some research has indicated it is effective in treating the pain of arthritis.
• Rosemary. Researchers at Kansas State University found that adding rosemary extract to ground beef reduces the cancer-causing chemicals that can form when meat is cooked, especially at high temperatures. Anti-inflammatories in rosemary also boost immunity and may even lessen the severity of asthma attacks.
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• Saffron. Australian researchers call saffron "nature's sunglasses" and say it may shield the eyes from damage caused by bright sunlight and even reverse age-related macular degeneration. Other studies suggest that saffron enhances memory and fights cancer.
• Turmeric. Studies show that turmeric, an herb used in Indian cooking, may treat or even prevent Alzheimer's disease, according to an article published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Other research has shown turmeric to enhance memory and improve cardiovascular health. A study at the University of Missouri found that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, decreased the incidence of progestin-accelerated breast tumors in animals. It also delayed onset of the disease and reduced the incidence of multiple tumors.
Combining spices into marinades adds flavor and nutrition to meats. Canadian researchers found that marinades — especially the spicy varieties — are powerful sources of antioxidants and are a tasty way to add more heart-healthy and cancer-fighting nutrients to your diet.