The Healthiest Spices to Try Now
We might think of them as just a way to flavour our food, but spices can play an important role in maintaining and promoting excellent overall health. That’s because they’re full of active compounds that are rich in healthy phytochemicals. Read on to discover which you should be stockpiling in your pantry…
With strong anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties, ginger is an excellent immunity booster and can help prevent stress and damage to your body’s DNA thanks to its active ingredient gingerol. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory so is known to suppress chronic inflammation which could otherwise harm your immune system and it’s known to reduce nausea and aid digestion. Happily, ginger is a versatile spice and can be used in abundance in plenty of savoury and sweet dishes as well in drinks and smoothies.
If you’re already in the habit of sprinkling a little cinnamon onto your morning latte, then well done. Thanks to a compound in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde, this gentle spice has the ability to fight inflammation, lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. It also has a potent impact on blood sugar, helping to lower levels and slow down how quickly carbs breakdown in the digestive system, resulting in better insulin sensitivity. That said, you’ll probably need to up your dose to more than you currently eat now; experts agree that around 1-2 teaspoons a day is optimum to feel its medicinal effects, so try blending a couple of teaspoons into your morning smoothie instead. We love this recipe for a great morning wake-up.
It’ll come as no surprise that turmeric makes the list, and rightly so thanks to its chemical compound curcumin. A powerful antioxidant, curcumin helps negate oxidative stress and boosts the body’s own ability to ward off damage and heal itself. Oxidative damage is something that affects us all and is responsible for exacerbating the signs of ageing. As well its antioxidant benefits, the main reason experts extol curcumin is for its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Thought to be the root cause of many diseases and chronic conditions, inflammation can be incredibly harmful to long-term health. As if that weren’t enough, curcumin has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to enter the brain and directly impact the cells. Here, it’s thought to trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, which help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety and improve mood. Try using turmeric in your curries, soups and stews or blended with a hot plant-based milk for a warming turmeric latte.
A spicy pepper often used in central American cuisine, cayenne pepper contains an active ingredient called capsaicin, which has in some studies been found to encourage fat burning and reduce appetite; one study by Purdue University found that it helped reduce cravings for salty, sweet and fatty foods in those tested. It’s also thought to help with digestive issues such as cramping, diarrhoea and gas, as well as boosting the immune system, because it’s a good source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
Providing a range of health benefits like its close relatives ginger and turmeric, cardamom is an excellent addition to your diet thanks to its combination of volatile oils, fixed oils, phenolic acids and sterols. And while all components of its make-up are beneficial to your health, it’s the properties of the volatile oils that are noteworthy for being analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic. While research is in its infancy, some experts believe it can also have a positive effect on heart health too, helping protect it from elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.