Friday, September 23, 2011

Spice Up Your Life!

               Adding spices to food is a great way to add flavor without adding any sodium. In fact, many salt alternatives are created purely from spices! For example, Mrs. Dash seasoning blend is nothing but onion, pepper, chili pepper, parsley, celery, basil, and other herbs and spices- blends like this add great flavor and antioxidants to any dish without any sodium. There have been many research studies using spices in-vitro (isolated in a lab) that have shown incredible antioxidant power. 
            Additionally, adding antioxidant-rich spices like turmeric, chili, and cinnamon can negate the ill effects of a high fat meal. Penn State (my alma-mater, sighhh) researchers found that adding spices to a high fat meal reduced the triglyceride response by 30% (high TG’s are a risk factor for heart disease). They used a group of 6 healthy but overweight men and fed them a normal meal one week, had a week of rest in between, then fed them a meal with 14 grams of high antioxidant spice blend (rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika)- all other variables accounted for. They tested blood 30 minutes before, and in 30 minute intervals for a total of 3 1/2 hours after the consumption of the meals. The researchers found that these high spiced meal decreased blood glucose levels by 21% and blood triglycerides by 31% after the meal. The conclusion of the study was that by adding antioxidant rich spices to meals, you could potentially lower your risk of developing heart disease and improve existing diabetes.

Below I list some of the benefits of certain herbs and spices:
Cinnamon- Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDLs and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Add to yogurt, cereal, coffee, etc!

Cloves- These are especially high in antioxidants and are antibacterial, which can help to treat cancers. Use in all your holiday baking (sweet potatoes, apples, hot cider, etc.).

Cilantro/Coriander- Can control blood sugar, cholesterol, and free radical production (what antioxidants fight off). Add cilantro to spicy dishes and coriander to different dinner recipes.

Garlic- May kill cancer and tumor cells, can decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and can protect against inflammation of the blood vessels. I recommend adding garlic to any dish you prepare that is savory (soup, eggs, chicken, roast for bread, etc.).... unless you are going out on a date later ;-)

Ginger- Is anti-inflammatory, can help with gastrointestinal distress, and protect against colorectal and ovarian cancers. Keep ginger in the freezer to preserve- add to stiry fries, cereals, and teas!

Chili Pepper- Can reduce blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels after meals- cultures with diets rich in chili peppers have lower rates of heart attacks and stroke. Chilis also can improve your immune system and aid in weight loss by boosting thermogenesis (why you get hot), which boosts the metabolism. Add hot peppers to any dish, buy hot pepper sauces and use frequently (just watch the sodium content!).

So don't eat boring food, spice up your life and reap the health benefits!!!!!!!!!!!

1. A. C. Skulas-Ray, P. M. Kris-Etherton, D. L. Teeter, C.-Y. O. Chen, J. P. Vanden Heuvel, S. G. West. A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Men. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 141 (8): 1451
2. World's Healthiest Foods Website

Turmeric- Contains a powerful anti-cancer agent (Curcumin), can lower blood cholesterol, improve IBD symptoms, and even has shown to help prevent Alzheimers in some studies- it has been used to help treat a variety of problems and diseases including cystic fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is one spice I would recommend adding to everything (especially eggs!).