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9 Spices and Herbs That Can Keep You Healthy

Keep these spices handy in your spice rack to not only improve the taste of your meals but to keep you healthy, too. These spices have health benefits like lowering cholesterol and preventing cancer.

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Dried red pepper flakes
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Blaine Moats
Blaine Moats
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Chris Gallo
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Dried Red Pepper

The compound capsaicin puts the heat in chilies. It may lower the risk of skin and colon cancers; studies show it also helps people eat fewer calories. Try hot pepper on pizza or in pasta.

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Nutmeg

Nutmeg contains antibacterial compounds that may help fight listeria, E. coli, and salmonella, according to research. Try nutmeg in soups or chicken dishes or on sweet potatoes.

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Cumin

Cumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may help stop tumor growth. Try cumin in tacos, or use it as a rub on meats.

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Turmeric

Turmeric contains an active component called curcumin, which may stop cancer from spreading and help prevent type 2 diabetes. Try turmeric in soups, stews, or curry dishes.

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Cinnamon

Just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon daily lowers blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes. Try cinnamon sprinkled on oatmeal or applesauce.

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Ginger

Ginger can stop nausea and may also relieve heartburn and bloating. Try adding a few slices of fresh ginger to stir-fries or salad dressings.

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Sage

This spice can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and generally reduce your risk of heart disease.

Add it to your diet by dipping a whole-grain roll in olive oil instead of butter. Then add a sprinkle of sage and black pepper.

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Peppermint

Peppermint is a great source of vitamin C and A and can help soothe indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome.

Here's how you can add it to your diet: Puree 2 tablespoons fresh mint with 1/2 cup yogurt or ricotta cheese. Serve with berries.

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Garlic

Garlic 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."
"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.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2009.

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