Now that the steamy summer days are behind us, it is the perfect time to get back to cooking in the kitchen. Break out the spices to bring warmth, robust flavor, and a bounty of other healthy benefits, including higher energy, higher immunity, and other life-enhancing surprises.
Considered to be dried seeds, fruit, roots or bark, spices have been valued for centuries by ancient cultures for their culinary and medicinal properties. For instance, a traditional Indian beauty trick was to spread turmeric paste on the skin to beautify and prevent pimples. Chinese doctors have used ginger since ancient times to cure aches and pains.
Here are some spices that you can start cooking with right away to elevate your longevity and health!
Garlic to Ward Off Heart Disease
In addition to warding off Count Dracula, garlic, the spicy favorite in Italian fare, has been shown to improve cholesterol and lower blood pressure. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, consuming half to one clove of garlic daily may reduce cholesterol by nearly ten percent. Your breath might suffer, but your heart will thank you. As an antibacterial, it is often used to treat minor infections.
Cinnamon for Healing Properties
Another ancient spice to recently come under investigation is cinnamon. In the US, cinnamon is usually thought of as the delicious spice in apple pie filling, but in other parts of the world, especially India and Asia, cinnamon has been used as a healing herb for centuries. Research is finally catching up to the wisdom of the East; many clinical studies have linked cinnamon consumption to lowered blood sugar. Both in vitro and human studies show improvement in insulin sensitivity with cinnamon polyphenols, as well as total and LDL cholesterol.
Cinnamon is also thought to detoxify the system and stimulate brain function. Its antiseptic properties give it the ability to fight bladder infection, and if taken in the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, a cup of strong cinnamon tea might just nip a bladder infection in the bud. Keep in mind that mixed study results make it difficult to prove these benefits on paper – but it doesn't hurt to sprinkle a teaspoon into your next bowl of oatmeal.
Cardamom to Invigorate Energy
Found in curries, rice dishes, herbal teas, and breads, cardamom is the spice that gives chai tea its main flavor. In Asia, cardamom has long been valued medicinally for its ability to increase circulation and improve energy. Considered an aphrodisiac in the Middle East, cardamom may also improve digestion, asthma, bronchitis, halitosis, and even help improve a bad mood.
Ginger to Remedy Aches and Nausea
A perfect compliment to vegetables, marinades and sweets, ginger is also delicious in tea. Chinese masters have long used ginger tea to fire up their vitality. Ginger is also touted in helping relieve nausea, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness.
Cumin to Boost Immunity
An excellent addition to meat curries, stews, vegetables, seafood, and sauces, cumin is thought to boost the immune system and also to improve liver function, reduce flatulence, and aid in digestion.
A word of warning: always discuss with your physician before treating conditions with spices to avoid any adverse interactions; for example, because garlic and ginger possess natural blood-thinning properties, individuals about to undergo surgery and those taking blood thinners should take extra precaution.