by Karmen Gregg
Everybody has to eat, but oftentimes we get in a rut of eating the same old foods—especially if we’re maintaining a diet for specific health reasons. However, special diets don’t automatically have to translate to tasteless and boring. The cure for any cravings for variety and flavor is easy—just spice up your life! A quick raid of your spice cabinet can help you create a vivid, vibrant and healthful experience every time you sit down for a meal.
Why spices? Spices contain an impressive list of plant-derived chemical compounds (phytochemicals) that are known to have health-promoting properties. In the last two decades, there has been a paradigm shift in research where biologically inert substances (plant compounds in spices called antioxidants) have demonstrated profound effects on health and disease. Spices are being identified as beneficial components to maintain human health like scavenging free radicals; modulating inflammation in the body; supporting a healthy, balanced microbial environment in the gut; and promoting appropriate immune responsiveness and positively affecting the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, and reproductive systems. Spices top the list when it comes to ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) levels—a scientific way of measuring the antioxidant value in specific foods and spices. Plus, they are an easy addition to any meal that needs some life, seasoning, and synergistic phytonutrients.
Two Spice Shelf Must Haves
Cinnamon has been used as a spice and as traditional herbal medicine for centuries. The available in vitro and animal in vivo evidence suggests that cinnamon modulates inflammation, supports healthy cholesterol levels and cardiovascular function, and promotes blood sugar stability.
• Mix it with almond butter or peanut butter with nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and spread it on apple slices for a seasonal afternoon snack.
• Sprinkle it over your coffee for a punch of antioxidants and added decadence in the morning.
• Sprinkle it over oatmeal, sautéed apples, or in a smoothie
• Drink cinnamon tea
Turmeric, that gloriously golden spice that is so ubiquitous in Indian cuisine and gives curry its golden color, has finally made its way into the Western kitchen, and it’s causing quite a stir. A true superfood, turmeric is a rhizome that looks similar to ginger but flaunts a deep orangey-gold color. That deep color is what holds the secret to turmeric’s powerful health-promoting properties; a phytonutrient family called curcuminoids. Curcuminoids (curcumin is the most abundant curcuminoid) have been the focus of numerous studies and are proving to be incredibly valuable to human health, mostly due to their potent antioxidant and inflammation modulating effects.
• Sprinkle it over different types of proteins
• Make a curry dish
• Drink “Golden Milk” instead of coffee in the morning
To increase the absorbability of turmeric, add some fat and black pepper and enjoy! Karmen Gregg, M.S. is a nutritionist and owns Cultivate: Mind-Body Nutrition located in Lakeside Holistic Health in Coeur d’Alene and Liberty Lake. Learn more at LakesideHolisticHealth.com or CultivateMindBodyNutrition.com.