Spices aren’t just excellent flavor additions that can help jazz up bland foods; many are also loaded with impressive health benefits that cause them to earn the title “super spice.” Here are five of our favorites and easy ways to include them in your diet.
For this article, we will be using the terms “herb” and “spice” interchangeably. In reality, herbs are the leaves of certain plants, while spices are created from roots, stems, seed, fruit, or flower of a plant.
One of the most heart-healthy spices, cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants, which can help reduce free radicals in the body, fight inflammation, and even lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. The real star power of cinnamon, however, comes from its ability to reduce and regulate blood sugar by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract and improving insulin sensitivity.
How to eat more: Cinnamon can be sprinkled on virtually any sweet dish. Add it to your morning yogurt and fruit bowl, use it in your oatmeal, or brew a teaspoon into your coffee.
You’ve likely heard of capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne, and other spicy peppers that is responsible for their heat and these peppers’ pain-relieving capabilities. Adding cayenne to your diet can help limit chronic pain by reducing inflammatory markers and even promote weight loss. Capsaicin has been connected to a reduced appetite, which could help with portion control and subsequent weight loss. As if that weren’t already impressive enough, cayenne could be useful in eliminating congestion associated with a cold or flu.
How to eat more: Though cayenne isn’t as easy to incorporate into your diet as a more mild spice like cinnamon, you can still sneak some into savory meals that need a little kick, such as bland chicken dishes or soups. For the full benefits of capsaicin, however, you’ll want to invest in a quality supplement.
No list of beneficial spices would be complete without the golden treasure, turmeric. Though it has been used for hundreds of years in eastern countries as a staple in their cuisine, turmeric has only recently broken into the health sphere of North America. The main active compound in turmeric is called curcumin, an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory substance known for its ability to reduce pain, improve gut health, and reduce oxidative stress.
How to eat more: Using turmeric in your diet can be slightly tricky; however, since it has become so popular, it is easy to find recipes that star this yellow spice. Plus, enjoying a mug of warm, golden turmeric milk is a great way to ingest the recommended daily amount. Be sure to eat turmeric along with black pepper to help increase the bioavailability of curcumin and increase its benefits.
Though it is technically neither an herb nor a spice (it’s actually a root vegetable), it can be used in it’s powdered form as a spice and minced or diced and added to dishes as a seasoning. Garlic contains a sulfur compound known as allicin, which is not only responsible for the pronounced scent and flavor of garlic but its numerous health benefits as well. Garlic can boost your immune system, reduce blood pressure, decrease heart disease risk, and even help ward off cancer.
How to eat more: If you enjoy the flavor of garlic, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding ways to add it into your diet. Even mixing it into veggies before you roast them is a great way to use it. Just be sure to use fresh garlic rather than the pre-minced variety. There are also garlic supplements available if you’re not a fan of this pungent food.
Ginger is pretty much the undisputed champion at reducing nausea. Whether you’re feeling queasy due to pregnancy, seasickness, motion sickness, or medication, ginger is a game-changer at helping you reclaim your normal activities and settling your stomach.
How to eat more: Thankfully, there are a wide variety of ginger products available that make enjoying this spice incredibly easy. Keep pure ginger chews (with no added ingredients) in your purse to combat any on-the-go nausea and enjoy freshly brewed tea while at home. Try incorporating it into Asian dishes like stir fry or even using it in your smoothies.