7 Common Cooking Spices That Are Good for Your Health

7 Common Cooking Spices That Are Good for Your Health

The simple spices you cook with can bolster wellness as well as flavor your food!

By: Maressa Brown

Let’s be honest – whether you’re cooking up a pot of chili, a slow-cooker specialty, or a baked pasta dish, you’re probably more focused on just getting dinner on the table than the healing effects of your ingredients. Still, the way you’re flavoring your food could kick a cold or even reduce cancer risk. Here, the fantastic health benefits of seven common cooking spices.

1. Cinnamon: This holiday staple isn’t just delightful in a cup of tea or baked goods. It’s also pretty incredible for helping balance uneven blood sugar, which may lead to wild cravings, low energy, and hunger pangs. That’s because cinnamon has antioxidant compounds that help cells metabolize glucose. And get this: Just half a teaspoon a day reduced risk factors for diabetes and heart disease within six weeks in a U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

2. Basil: The herb, which you may be most familiar with tasting in Italian and Southeast Asian foods, actually boasts pretty impressive antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial properties, thanks to its volatile oils -- linalool, 1,8-cineole, estragole, and eugenol. In fact, basil essential oil has been shown to inhibit some kinds of pathogenic bacteria that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics. You can get the bug-fighting benefit by using it topically, or by adding basil oil to cooking.

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3. Ginger: Whether it’s used in savory or sweet dishes or beverages, the anti-inflammatory chemicals in ginger win it praise all the time, but one of its standout effects is reducing muscle pain. Subjects who had just a teaspoon of ground ginger a day for 11 days experienced a 25 percent reduction in exercise-related muscle pain compared to those who took a placebo, in a study done at the University of Georgia.

4. Curry: Curry spice blends usually feature turmeric, which contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Research has shown that curcumin inhibits the growth of certain breast cancer cells. Other research shows it may also guard against stomach and colon cancer.

5. Oregano: Worried about coming down with a case of the stomach flu this season? You may want to add a dash of oregano to your pasta sauce or chicken recipes. Research from the University of Arizona found the antiviral herb may fight norovirus.


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6. Cayenne: You may have heard that spicy foods stoke the metabolism, and it’s true, thanks to the red hot compound capsaicin. Studies have shown that incorporating the spice into your cooking could temporarily increase metabolism by about 8 percent over a person’s normal rate. It may also reduce your appetite.

7. Cumin: Commonly used to add aromatic depth to dishes like taco meat and spaghetti sauce, the spice is touted as having anti-stress, antioxidant, and brain-boosting activities. In fact, an animal study showed that consuming cumin extract improved performance on memory tests.

Do you use certain spices for their health benefits?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/S847

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