The aroma of spices remind us of happy holiday memories, but they also add health benefits as well as flavor. As well as the health benefits, the increasing boomer population also needs to spice up their foods - as we age our taste buds loose their vigor, so adding more spice to meals is key.
Here are a few popular holiday spices and their benefits.
Cinnamon has been used as a botanical medicine for over 4,000 years. The spice is obtained from the inner bark of several varieties of a tropical evergreen tree (genus, Cinnamomum). Many of its healing and health promoting properties are attributed to its essential oils and phytonutrients. The range of health applications and anecdotal applications are broad, and range from boosting cognitive function and memory, treating rheumatism, helping with digestion and relieving certain menstrual disorders, regulating blood sugar, as well as inhibiting bacterial growth; making it an effective natural food preservative.
Ginger is not just great in stir-fries; it exhibits antioxidant effects and the ability to lessen the formation of inflammation in the brain (similar to turmeric). Gingerol is the compound responsible for ginger’s many benefits including the ability to significantly help with nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness. It is a powerful antioxidant and is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. Ginger is also thought to aid in the protection against certain cancers.
Saffron, also used in Indian curries, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, saffron is thought to have many health benefits and has been used in the treatment of asthma, arthritis and to aid digestion. It is thought to have cholesterol lowering abilities and may be anti-carcinogenic.
Sage does more than just season the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. In fact, sage is thought to be a great brain food. A British research team looked into sage’s therapeutic properties and memory and found that those who consumed sage oil performed significantly better at memory tests than the placebo. The sage group also demonstrated improvements in both immediate and delayed word recall scores and reported improved mood.
Turmeric is another reason to enjoy Indian curries; curries typically contain turmeric, a deep yellow/orange colored spice that has been used for countless centuries not only as a spice but also in traditional Asian medicine for healing. Traditional medicine has “prescribed” turmeric to help gastrointestinal problems, arthritic pain, and a lack of energy; in recent years, scientists have found that the polyphenol curcumin (responsible for turmeric’s color) may protect and heal due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are also thought to benefit blood flow to the brain, inhibiting and reducing plaque build up, thus showing promise in the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Rosemary, the pine-like herb, offers anti-inflammatory protection to the delicate human brain and is thought to improve concentration. In winter, a rosemary bush inside the house acts as a natural air freshener and “cleaner” along with being convenient for cooking. Rosemary halts gene mutations that could lead to cancer and may help prevent damage to our circulatory system thereby reducing risk for cardiovascular complications.
The addition of spices can benefit the taste of almost any food and can help curb salt usage.
Adding spice means adding a wealth of health benefits and flavor.
Please note: spices in image may vary.