This post was written by Tiana Yom, MPH, CHES
Flu season is here. Have you received your flu shot yet? If not, you better go out and get one. But in the meantime, there are some things you can do to strengthen your immune system and protect your body against harmful bacteria and germs.
I am traditionally trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine – a form of Complementary Alternative Medicine – and am a firm believer that our bodies are able to naturally heal without all the pharmaceutical products we currently use. As previously mentioned in my introductory Nutritioulicious post, I believe that one should take heed to Hippocrates’s words: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” So in that vein, here are the top five fantastic spices to promote good health.
The top 5 antioxidant-packed spices: The five Cs
That burning sensation in your mouth when you eat foods spiced with cayenne (red) pepper comes from capsaicin, the oily compound behind most of the health benefits of cayenne and its peppery cousins. Cayenne has been shown to shrinks blood vessels in your nose and throat, which may help relieve congestion. Various studies have also shown capsaicin’s role as a metabolism booster, speeding up your calorie-burning furnace for a couple of hours after eating. As Chef Emeril Lagasse would say, “kick it up a notch” and add cayenne to some of your less spicy dishes like chicken soup or Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas. You can also get some in Jessica’s Orange-Scented Spiced Nuts.
Cinnamon has become popular for its ability to improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Some of its natural compounds improve insulin function, significantly lowering blood sugar with as little as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon a day. Like many other spices, cinnamon has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to conquer E. coli among other types of bacteria. Researchers have even discovered recently that it’s rich in antioxidants called polyphenols – another reason it’s good for your heart.
Cloves, an aromatic spice common in Indian cooking, contain an anti-inflammatory chemical called Eugenol. The combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties from cloves may boost protection from heart disease, help stave off cancer, and slow the damage to cartilage and bone caused by arthritis. Compounds in cloves, similar to those found in cinnamon, may also improve insulin function. Add just a dash of ground cloves when cooking – they have a very intense flavor. Cloves pair nicely with pumpkin, making this time of year the perfect time to enjoy. Try ground cloves in Jessica’s Spiced Pumpkin Bread.
Coriander seeds yield cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, a staple herb in Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian cooking. These antioxidant-rich seeds have been used for thousands of years as a digestive aid. Try making a strong tea from crushed seeds (strain before drinking), or using ground coriander in dishes like Coconut-Curry Beef.
It has been known throughout history that one of the primary health benefits of cumin is to help with digestive disorders, including flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, and morning sickness. What makes cumin special is that it’s an excellent source of iron, a mineral that is instrumental in keeping your immune system healthy. Menstruating, pregnant, and lactating women, as well as growing children and adolescents have increased iron needs, which can be hard to meet from food alone. A simple way to prepare cumin for use is to toast the seeds in a dry skillet over low heat. Let seeds to cool slightly, then grind and add to your Nutritioulicious Fish Tacos, Coconut-Lime Chicken, and Moroccan Lamb Burgers!
Do you incorporate these spices in your cooking? Tell us how!