I’ve been cooking with herbs & spices for decades. I love the way they can really perk up a dish, but I never really gave much thought to the health benefits. Since I’ve been researching what are my best and healthiest food options, the how to use and which herbs & spices to use has opened up an exciting new world of cooking.
In this post I will share some of the health benefits of the more popular spices. For health info on herbs go to my post on the Health Benefits of Herbs
What, Where & Why
- Spices are generally derived from the bark, root, fruit, or berries of perennial plants and trees. Examples: cinnamon is the bark, ginger the root, nutmeg the fruit, pepper the berry. Other spices in your cupboard are actually blends such as curry, chili powder, seasoned salt, pickling/pumpkin spices, etc.
- Spices (& herbs) are classified botanically as fruits and vegetables. They offer higher levels of antioxidants since they no longer contain the water that makes up a large portion of fresh produce.
One teaspoon of ground cinnamon has the equivalent level of antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries or one cup of pomegranate juice. Just think of all the foods to which you add cinnamon!
- Including spices in your recipes adds flavor so you are able to use less fat, salt &/or sugar.
- Have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation has been identified as a precursor to many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, allergies, and Alzheimer’s to name a few.
- Some spices help to boost metabolism. The capsaicin in peppers are believed to have metabolic boosting properties.
- Some spices help keep your blood sugar steady.
- Help increase cell-protecting activities in your blood which defend you against many diseases, from arthritis to cancer.
- If you eat foods that are flavorful and satisfying, there is a good chance you will eat less and consume fewer calories, too!
Storage and Longevity
- It is best to store your spices in tightly closed containers in a cool dark place, like a cupboard away from the stove.
- Most ground spices lose their potency after six months on the shelf. Whole spices keep their potency up to one year. It is wiser to buy small amounts that you will use up more quickly than bulk amounts.
- Essential Oils are 50-70 time more potent than spices (& dried herbs) and when stored in closed glass containers away from light and heat, they will last for decades probably longer than you. Not all essential oils are created equal or to be taken internally. For this reason I ONLY use CPTG essential oils. I like that the oils I use are independently tested multiple times to ensure they are certified pure therapeutic grade, better than organic! Email me to learn more Kathy@kathyskinner.com
Learn about substituting with essential oils in my blog post
Some health benefits of common spices & blends
Allspice – Helps with digestive & pain relief, used to treat bacterial and fungal infections as well as coughs, chills, bronchitis and depression. It resembles a mixture of clove, cinnamon & nutmeg.
*Black Pepper – Improve digestion, promotes intestinal health, has antioxidant and antibacterial effects. The outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn.
*Cassia or *Cinnamon – Can help regulate blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Helps fight fungus and inflammation, inhibits bacterial growth and helps eliminate headaches. Aim for one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day. Add to plain Greek Yogurt, a drop of essential oil and fruit, in your oatmeal, etc
*Cardamom – a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. It offers gastrointestinal protection, cholesterol control, relief from cardiovascular issues, improvement of blood circulation, helpful with dental diseases & urinary tract infections. It also possesses aphrodisiac properties. Cardamom is used mainly in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a strong pungent flavor and aroma. I frequently will add a pod when making rice. It is the 3rd most expensive spice (saffron, vanilla bean)
*Clove – has antiseptic and germicidal properties that help fight infections, relieve digestive problems, reduce inflammation of arthritis pain, helps with macular degeneration and tooth infections. Cloves rank as the richest source of antioxidants.
The benefits of antioxidants include powerful protection against all types of degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more. Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce, add to quick bread batters, and add a pinch to hot tea. Grate fresh ginger into quick bread batters and vinaigrette. Add chopped ginger to stir-fries. Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots.
Cocoa – Controversy on whether cocoa is a spice or not, I do because it is similar with some of the spices like curry, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. They all come in powdered form. It acts as a natural anti-depressant, antioxidant properties, can reduce blood pressure, boosts energy. When choosing cocoa to consume for health, it is Best to choose a high-quality dark chocolate. It should contain at least 70% cocoa and no dairy products.
*Coriander – Can be refer as both an herb and a spice Although the term coriander is used in much of the world in reference to both cilantro leaves and seeds, in the Americas, it generally refers to the dried cilantro seeds which are used as a spice both in whole form and ground. Protects against the Salmonella bacteria, aids in digestion & helps settle the stomach & prevent flatulence, anti-inflammatory that may alleviate symptoms of arthritis, protects against urinary tract infections, lowers blood sugar, lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) & raises good cholesteraol (HDL)
Coriander is a more subtle flavoring of spice & citrus flavor. Coriander is often used in Spanish, Mexican, Latin and Indian cuisine. It’s a common ingredient in spice rubs, marinades, chilis, sauces, soups and curries and works well with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. It pairs well with all the other spices in the “C” club: chili powder, cinnamon, curry and especially, cumin I use it in just about all my vegtable fermintation
Cayenne – Helps with pain relief, metabolism booster, prostate cancer fighter, anti-bacterial, helps with digestive issues & coughs, helps with migraines headaches, detoxifier. A dash helps bring out natural flavors of foods
*Fennel Seeds/powder– Offers digestive relief, anti-oxidant, helps maintain proper body functions, helps in prevention of inflammation and cancers Licorice like taste. Use seeds in breads, sausage, fish. Use essential oil to make tea.
Garlic- Helps to destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells, protective benefits, reduces acne because of its anti-bacterial properties, help reduce inflammation. Add fresh chopped or minced garlic to pasta dishes, stir-fry dishes, pizza, fresh tomato sauce, and meat and poultry recipes.
*Ginger – Can decrease motion sickness and nausea; may also relieve pain and swelling associated with arthritis, can also hinder blood clotting, an antioxidant. Ginger can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. mixed with honey and heated to provide a sweet gingery glaze on steamed carrots or broiled salmon fillets. Ginger also livens up marinades and sauces.
Add a dash of warm sweet flavor to winter vegetables. Sprinkle Ground Ginger onto cooked carrots, acorn or butternut squash, or sweet potatoes.
Mustard – Stimulates digestion, speeds up metabolism, inhibits cancer cell growth, reduces severity of asthma, decreases symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lowering of high blood pressure, helps with prevention of migraines
Nutmeg (& Mace)- Helps relieve pain, soothe indigestion, strengthen cognitive function, detoxify the body, boost skin health, alleviate oral conditions, reduce insomnia, increase immune system function, and prevent leukemia, and improve blood circulation.
Paprika – Contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer, benefits night vision, helps control blood clot formation. Combine paprika with other spices, such as garlic powder and cayenne, and use as a healthful rub for chicken breast, fish or lean red meat. Lightly coat sweet potatoes in olive oil and paprika, and then roast until tender, or use paprika as a seasoning for roasted or steamed carrots. Add a spoonful of paprika to your favorite hummus to add flavor, or roast peeled chickpeas in a mix of paprika and coconut oil for a healthful snack. Finally, try using paprika to season homemade soups — it pairs especially well with pureed carrot, squash or pumpkin soups.
Salt – mostly known as a mineral. Some people say that salt is a mineral and not a spice. In actuality salt can be used to flavor food; therefore to me it is also a spice. Sodium chloride (salt) is essential to the body helping transmit nerve impulses. It plays an important role in maintaining the blood pressure and regulating our body fluids.
Turmeric – Can inhibit the growth of cancer cells, protects against cognitive decline associated with aging, a digestive aide, cholesterol reducer, lowers blood sugar, liver detoxifier, speeds up wound healing. Use it in eggs, salad dressings, meats, poultry, fish & rice dishes.
Vanilla – Helps relieve pain, aches, stress, anxiety, depression, gas, fatigue, vomiting and nausea. Vanilla beans can also be a natural aphrodisiac. It contains anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.
Chili Powder – combination of cumin, coriander, chili peppers, garlic, cloves, paprika, salt, oregano, black pepper, & turmeric
Chinese Five-Spice – ground cloves, anise, fennel, licorice root, & cinnamon
Crushed Red Pepper – Crushed red pepper flakes are made up of a combination of red chili pepper types. Ancho, bell, cayenne and other peppers can all be part of the dried and ground pepper mix. Most of these peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which can help deplete the brain of pain-signaling neurotransmitters, block inflammation, preventing prostate cancer cells from proliferating and inducing cell death, according to a study published in the journal “Cancer Research” in 2006. , appetite suppressant & loaded with anti-oxidants, enhances metabolism, increases satiety and helps with fat burning
Use cayenne, crushed red pepper and paprika to spice up hummus, guacamole, cottage cheese and even mashed potatoes. She adds, “Give marinades or dressings a kick with a little cayenne or sprinkle paprika onto fish for a tasty and pretty change.
Curry – cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, pepper, dill, mace, cardamom & cloves
Pumpkin Spices – cinnamon, cloves & ginger.
* spices available in essential oils. contact me to purchase or learn more Kathy@kathyskinner.com
NOTE: The advice shared in document has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical help. Kindly understand that essential oils work to help to bring the body into balance – thus helping the body’s natural defenses to restore homeostasis