WRITTEN BY Dr. Nancy Palermo Lietz
Check out the full post to read about how you can incorporate spices and herbs in your daily meals to maximize their benefits and your health. A must-read health and wellness article!
Most good cooks know that using herbs and spices in food preparation help flavor food without adding extra sodium, calories, sugar and fat. Modern science has given us more reasons to flavor our foods with these seasonings. Many herbs and spices have shown medicinal benefits and are believed to be weapons against illnesses and chronic diseases.
Spices and herbal therapies have been used for thousands of years in non-Western cultures as accepted remedies and cures for disease. A common saying in India cautions that “a house without ginger is a sick house.” In the past, these “therapies” were considered unorthodox by Western doctors, yet recent studies suggest there is a basis for their longevity. In cultures where herbs and spices are used in large quantities, the incidence of diet-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer are low. Science is just beginning to uncover the specific health benefits.
The marketplace has picked up on the data and, in turn, demand and supply has increased exponentially. After implementation of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, the number of herbal products on the market has increased from approximately 4,000 products to more than 29,000. Recent national surveys have reported that 72 percent of people are using herbal remedies along with prescribed medications to treat underlying medical conditions. In 2008, U.S. consumers spent $4.8 billion on herbal supplements.
While it is clear that some herbs and spices may be effective medicines, we are still unsure about dosages and potential interactions with commonly prescribed medications. Analyses of herbal supplements have shown differences between what is listed and what is actually in the bottle. Some of these supplements have been found to be contaminated with metals and microorganism. An investigation by the United States Accountability Office reported in 2010 showed that nearly all the herbal supplements tested found traces of lead, mercury, arsenic and other contaminants in levels that exceeded standards of acceptable daily intake. Among the metal containing products tested, 95 percent were sold by U.S. companies and on websites. The FDA is cracking down on many of the companies producing herbal supplements. With enhanced inspections of facilities and strict enforcement, it is believed that the quality and safety of supplements will improve.
Until then, try using nutrient-packed fresh and dried herbs and spices in your foods to boost your health. Buy fresh or organic formulations when possible. Store the herbs and spices in airtight containers to keep them potent and fresh. Listed below are a few of the healthiest spices and herbs and their claims. Incorporate a variety of these spices and herbs into your daily meals to maximize their benefits and your health.
Available animal trials on the properties of cinnamon strongly suggest that it has hypoglycemic properties and might help control blood-sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics. Some limited data suggests that cinnamon also reduces LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. It is easy to sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon on cereals and oatmeal. It can be mixed with maple syrup or honey and can be added to yogurt. Adding cinnamon to high carbohydrate meals may reduce postprandial blood sugar levels.
Ginger has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It also has been shown in studies to improve gastric emptying, which aids in the treatment and prevention of symptoms of heartburn and gastro esophageal reflux. It has been used as a remedy for morning sickness and chemotherapy nausea. Ginger can easily be added to foods or can be steeped as a tea with honey and lemon.
Oregano has four times more antioxidant activity than blueberries and 40 more activity than apples. It is an excellent source of Vitamin K, iron and manganese. It may be helpful in guarding against infection. In the lab, oregano oils inhibit the growth of bacteria such as Staphylococcous aureus and E. Coli.
Thyme is commonly used in cooking. It also has expectorant and antimicrobial properties. It has potential anti-fungal properties and has been shown to be effective against oral fungal infections. In Germany, it is endorsed to treat upper respiratory infections and bronchitis. A steeped concoction made up of 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ½ cup of hot water and ½ cup of organic honey has been shown to be a highly effective expectorant in the treatment of URI and coughs.
Turmeric is the deep yellow spice commonly found in curries. In Asian and Indian cultures, it has been used as a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric has been shown in studies to reduce enzymes involved in the inflammatory response. In a randomized clinical trial, one set of osteoarthritis patients was given 2 grams of turmeric extract and the other set was given 800 milligrams of ibuprofen daily. Both groups had similar pain relief. Turmeric has also been shown to help regulate lipid metabolism.