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Health Benefits of Herbs & Spices

We want to help our customers incorporate herbs and spices into their daily diet and foods for more than one reason. First, they make healthy foods taste better! Using herbs and spices is an easy way to add flavour when you’re cutting back on salt, for example. And, many people enjoy eating lean meats and vegetables more—even without added fat—when herbs and spices are used. This can help you reduce your calorie intake and limit the amount of saturated fat (think butter) you use in your cooking.

As if the benefit of amazing taste wasn’t enough, the compounds in herbs and spices can have some powerful positive effects on your health as well. Research into the specific ways herbs and spices can improve health has mushroomed in the past few years. We are always discovering how to optimize these benefits but feel confident in encouraging you to spice things up to boost the potential of your home-cooked meals.

So how do herbs and spices help our health and wellness?

The compounds responsible for the aroma and flavour or herbs and spices are frequently the same ones that may help improve your health and prevent disease. Here’s how they function in the body:

  • Antioxidant activity—Many of the compounds in herbs and spices fight oxidation and free radicals that can damage cell membranes, DNA and proteins. Oxidative damage and stress contribute to many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. Consistently leading the list when it comes to this benefit: cinnamon, cloves, oregano, peppermint and thyme.

  • Anti-inflammatory activity—Inflammation can be both noticeable, like the pain of arthritis or gastritis, or hidden, like the chronic inflammation thought to be part of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Many herbs and spices, like turmeric and cumin, are potent anti-inflammatory agents.

  • Blood sugar control—Cinnamon is being studied for its ability to keep blood sugar levels stable and enhance the effect of insulin in people who have insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.

  • Antimicrobial activity—Chiles, basil, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, garlic and ginger are just a few of the spices that protect against harmful bacterial growth. They have traditionally been used to keep meat safe from bacteria in warm climates, and their role in maintaining healthy bacterial growth in the large intestine is being explored.

  • Anti-cancer activity—Many herbs and spices contain compounds that help inhibit tumour growth, prevent cell mutation and influence enzymes that aid the liver in clearing potentially toxic substances.

And more! —There are likely many other beneficial compounds in herbs and spices. Take, for example, the finding that spicing up your food with red pepper may help you eat less. People who were given red pepper either on their food or in capsules ate about 25 percent less at their next meal compared with those who didn’t have the spice, according to a study in Nutrition Today. It also seemed to increase the number of calories they burned, suggesting that the active ingredient in red peppers, capsaicin, has a direct effect on metabolism.

Spicey Insights to Health

Turmeric

Turmeric can help boost your immune system with a hit of concentrated nutrition providing numerous potential benefits which include:

 

  • anti-oxidents that have cancer fighting properties

  • anit-inflammatory properties to help fight joint pain

  • helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels

  • helps lower blood cholesterol

  • aids in digestion and helps relieve nausea

  • helps lower blood pressure

  • black pepper helps the bio-availability of the turmeric

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is actually on of the most powerful healing spices and is well known for its ability to help control blood sugar level (helpful for sufferers of type 2 diabetes). Cinnamon can also help prevent blood clots, making it especially ‘heart smart’. Like many other spices, cinnamon has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help your immune system and is also very rich in anti-oxidants.

 

Cinnamon is known for its versatility in sweet and savoury recipes alike. True Ceylon Cinnamon is recommended as the healthiest cinnamon to use with a ½ teaspoon being the recommended daily allowance. Delicious in cookie and cake recipes, breakfast recipes, winter warming drinks and equally as flavourful in Cypriot savoury dishes such as stuffed vine leaves (koupepia) and meatballs (keftides).

Ginger

Ginger is known to contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, making it an important spice for sufferers of arthritis. It also helps relieve nausea from motion sickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy linked nausea.  In the winter months Ginger is especially helpful in preventing and treating flu and cold symptoms, reducing fever, soothing sore throats and acting as an expectorant.  It can help improve circulation so that more oxygen is reaching the tissue to assist in removing toxins and viruses.

 

In cooking, Ginger pairs well with Turmeric being the same family.  Delicious in sweets, ginger biscuits as well as Indian and Asian cuisine! This month's recipe for using Ginger is 'Tarka Dal', made with Island Spoils Spice&Easy range of blended herbs and spices.

 

Black Pepper

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is a wonderful spice with a rich history and many uses in the kitchen and in the medicine chest. It is one of the world’s most widely traded spices appearing on dining tables everywhere.

A little pepper may go a long way with its health providing anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties. It can also help as a decongestant and facilitates digestion.  Most importantly, it enhances bio availability maximising the efficiency of other health food we consume.

Surprisingly, black pepper has many practical benefits.  It can be used as an ant repellent, natural pest control (sprinkled around plants) and helps keep coloured clothes bright by adding a teaspoon at the start of a wash cycle. It can also be applied to minor cuts to help stop bleeding.

Basil

There is a reason Basil is so popular- it’s delicious! It’s highly fragrant leaves are used as a seasonal herb for a variety of foods and especially good with tomatoes.

Research shows that basil had anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it calms the stomach and aids in digestion, either by chewing the fresh leaves or drinking tea made from dried Basil. It is good for coughs and colds. Chewing a Basil leaf before applying to ‘a bite’ or sting helps to relieve pain and draw out venom. Basil also reduces stress and helps lower blood sugar…. and you thought it was only good for Pesto!!

Rosemary

Native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary is one of the most commonly found herbs in a spice rack, and for good reason – not only does it have a wonderful taste and aroma, but also a wealth of beneficial health effects if regularly added to our diet.

Rosemary is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae along with many other herbs, such as oregano, thyme, basil, and lavender. The name rosemary derives from the Latin ros meaning "dew" and marinus meaning "sea" - "sea dew."

Oregano

Oregano is a wonderful herb with health promoting properties. From the mint family, this warm and aromatic yet slightly bitter herb grows best in a warm and dry climate. Its name is derived from Greek, meaning 'mountain of joy'. Sunlight encourages the concentration of the essential oils that give Oregano its rich distinctive flavour.

 

Oregano has been gaining recognition and popularity as a natural remedy, even though it's use as a health boosting herb is centuries old. It contains high amounts of Omega 3's, Iron, Manganese and antioxidants. It is also considered to be antibacterial, anti-parasitic, antiseptic, antiviral and immune stimulating. Both the fresh herb and Oregano oil have high amounts of antioxidant.

Cumin

Cumin is an aromatic spice used since ancient times, its flavor making it a favourite for many.  Besides its culinary uses, ‘chili con carne’ springs to mind, it is known for its medicinal properties and found in many natural remedies and herbal medicines.

Cumin is considered a boost for overall health improving our immunity.  It’s high in anti-oxidants and aids the digestive system, helping with flatulence!  Cumin is also known to help sufferers of insomnia.

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www.spiceandeasycyprus.com

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

                                                             ― Hippocrates

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