People use spices mainly to add flavor and color to food dishes. Most are unaware that many of those spices have health promoting properties.
Spices make food look appetizing and taste delicious. They're an integral part of many mouth-watering recipes. Yet, apart from color and flavor, most people pay little attention to them. Perhaps they should since many may have significant health benefits. Here are six.
Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. Some doctors recommend it for a variety of conditions including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have found that turmeric can be better at relieving osteoarthritic pain than ibuprofen. There are also many benefits of turmeric for better brain functioning. According to the Mayo Clinic, laboratory, and animal research suggests that curcumin may help prevent cancer and if the disease is already established, slow its spread and enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Though medical experts are unsure about how it works, cumin has long been used as a medicine to treat a variety of digestive disorders including colic, diarrhea, and bloating. It is also taken as an aphrodisiac.
Like cumin, experts are unsure how coriander works as a medicine. Nevertheless, its seeds are used to treat digestive problems, nausea, diarrhea, bowel spasms and gas related bloating. In addition, people take coriander seeds to treat bacterial and fungal infections as well as hemorrhoids, toothache, worms and joint pains.
The seeds of the fennel plant are used to treat coughs, water retention, and intestinal gas. Fennel seeds are known to be a great source of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, and copper. Other than that, it is also a source of many vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Along with these are the B-complex vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and thiamine.
This popular spice, usually associated with Hungary, is a native of Mexico. It is made from dried sweet or chili peppers ground into powder. Paprika is an antioxidant, is high in vitamin A, and contains capsaicin, which aids relief from pain by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. It is also used as a topical ointment applied to external areas of the skin to help relieve aches and pains.
Most reputable medical websites attribute significant health promoting properties to these and other spices. However, most, including WebMD and the Mayo Clinic, add the rider that though much empirical evidence exists, experts are unsure how these herbs and spices work as medicines.
That's not surprising since only a limited amount of scientific research has been carried out on the health benefits of most herbs and spices. That too is hardly surprising, since pharmaceutical companies fund most scientific research related to medicines, and they are unlikely to profit from confirming the health benefits of cheap, freely available natural products.
Everyone can reap the health benefits of spices in almost any dish not only in the dishes traditionally associated with those spices. Just because a recipe doesn't specify a particular herb or spice doesn't mean it shouldn't use it for its health promoting properties. Provided just a small amount is added, there's no need to worry about adversely changing the taste of a particular dish.
Maggie Martin is Ph.D. in Cell Biology graduate. She is very passionate about healthy living and have been writing some great and informative blogs about Food and Healthy Lifestyles. When she is not busy, she takes interest in a variety of things such as lifestyle, food, health, herbal medicine, and the benefits of turmeric. Follow her on Twitter @Maggiemartink