19 December 2008

The Healthy Side of a Few Common Spices That May Already Be in Your Kitchen Pantry

Herbs and Spices are not only flavor enhancers for culinary creations; many of them are quickly becoming the new superfoods. Disease preventing phytonutrients can be found in many spices.

Garlic contains allicin, the potent compound responsible for its very strong odor, which is released when fresh garlic is crushed or minced in some way. Allicin may reduce blood clots and protect from oxidative damage to coronary vessels, but is easily destroyed and most concentrated in the uncooked form of garlic. Therefore use in perhaps a vinaigrette or a homemade sandwich spread and the like would be most beneficial.

Sage is an interesting herb for cooking. Traditionally it has been found to have a beneficial effect on brain function and memory. Sage tea is also great for oral health including inflammation and soreness in the mouth and to relieve upset stomach. The aroma of sage is more prominent in the fresh vs. dried form.

Turmeric is a relative to the ginger plant and is usually the main ingredient in currys, but on its own it has very beneficial properties. It is known for its strong anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to help reduce cholesterol, and also serves as a digestive aid. A natural 'stomach' soother recipe that many swear by is turmeric with some warm milk. About 1/2 cup of warm milk is mixed with 1/2 a teaspoon turmeric and taken once a day for several days. I haven't tried it yet but several family members claim good results from using it.

Ginger, the close cousin to turmeric is mainly known for its high effectiveness as a digestive aid. The pungent root relieves many digestive ailments such as stomach cramps, indigestion, nausea and the like.

Oregano is a common herb packed with nutritive value. It is known to be a powerful anti-bacterial agent due to its volatile oils including thymol and carvacrol. Perhaps a little known fact about oregano is that it has a considerable amount of anti-oxidant activity and has a high number of phytonutrients compared even to some fruits and vegetables like oranges and potatoes. However these benefits are most intense with use of the pure oregano oil which is taken orally or topically, is very concentrated, and is often mixed with a carrier oil when administered.

From these examples, it is easy to see that the regular every day herb you use for cooking most likely serves a much greater purpose than just flavor.


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