Throughout history, spices have enticed explorers and kings, and have led to discoveries of new lands and new foods. Today, researchers are discovering how important spices really are to a healthy diet. Spices and health have a clear link, it turns out.
Spices not only add flavor and enable us to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in our diets, recent scientific research indicates that some spices identified by the National Cancer Institute may also have potent anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and other health-promoting effects. We like to call these particular ones SuperSpices.
These spices include cumin, turmeric, oregano and thyme. Let the following spices entice you to super-tasting food and super-health:
Cumin, a nutty, peppery seed is rich in iron and it has been found in clinical studies to have anti-cancer properties. Cumin also protects the liver from disease, inhibits tumors and reduces inflammation.
Turmeric is sometimes called “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange color. Studies have shown that turmeric’s yellow or orange pigment, known as curcumin, has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to hydrocortisone and other anti-inflammatory drugs. In some preliminary research studies, turmeric has also been associated with relief from rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, improved liver function and cardiovascular health. There is some evidence that it may also provide protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Oregano contains a host of phytonutrients with powerful antioxidant properties. Research has indicated that oregano demonstrates 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples and 30 times more than potatoes.
Thyme is a rich source of flavanoids and is now recognized as a powerful antioxidant food. Also, the primary oil in thyme, thymol, has been found to significantly increase the healthy fats found in the brains of aging rats.
Other spices the National Cancer Institute recognizes for cancer-preventative properties are sage, rosemary, fennel, caraway, anise, coriander and tarragon.
When cooking, use whole spices when possible. While recipes will instruct when you should add these ingredients, it’s ideal to add whole spices to dishes one-hour before the end of cooking. Ground spices should be added before the last 15 minutes of cooking, but fresh spices should be added at the very end of cooking.