Spice of Life: Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs
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Fitness

Spice of Life: Health Benefits of Spices and Herbs

Herbs and spices have more disease-fighting antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables. Here's how to rack up the benefits.
Cinnamon

Health Boost: Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Aim for one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day.

Get Cooking: Dip berries or bananas in low-fat sour cream, then in a mix of 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Turmeric

Health Boost: Contains curcumin, which can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Try to have 500 to 800 milligrams a day, says Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Get Cooking: For an Indian flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric to water when cooking 1 cup rice.

Rosemary

Health Boost: Stops gene mutations that could lead to cancer and may help prevent damage to the blood vessels that raise heart attack risk.

Get Cooking: For a delicious chicken rub, combine 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves with 2 teaspoons seasoning salt and 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves.

Garlic

Health Boost: Destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells, says Karen Collins, RD, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. "Studies suggest that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits."

Get Cooking: "Let garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes after chopping and before cooking so the active form of the protective phytochemicals develops," says Collins. Saute fresh garlic over low heat and mix with pasta, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese.

Paprika

Health Boost: Contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer (also found in cayenne and red chili peppers). There's no specific recommended dose, but moderation is probably the best way to go.

Get Cooking: Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme and 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper to liven up popcorn.

Ginger

Health Boost: Can decrease motion sickness and nausea; may also relieve pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Doses used in clinical trials range from 500 to 2,000 mg of powdered ginger. (A quarter-size piece of fresh root contains about 1,000 mg.) More than 6,000 mg can cause stomach irritation. Ginger can also hinder blood clotting, so if you're about to have surgery or are taking blood thinners or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

Get Cooking: For motion sickness, try having one or two pieces of crystallized, or candied, ginger. Make sure ginger is listed as an ingredient; some candied products or ginger ales contain a small amount or a synthetic form. You can also add 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger to vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as fresh fruit (especially peaches).

Oregano

Health Boost: A USDA study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.

Get Cooking: To spice up tomato soup, add 3/4 teaspoon oregano to 1 can; add 1/2 teaspoon to 2 cups pasta or pizza sauce. Substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano for 2 teaspoons fresh.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, May 2006.

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