Herbs and spices certainly add zesty flavour to our meals, but many also offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-aging, immune-enhancing, blood sugar-balancing effects and weightloss. Below are some of my favourites:
Mix it up with varied spices: It turns out that your favourite spice mix not only helps your food taste better, it can also reduce your waistline. According to the Journal of Medicinal Food (2005), a food seasoning spice mixture improves glucose metabolism and lipid profile in fructose-fed hyperinsulinemic rats. Treatment with these spices significantly reduced plasma glucose and insulin levels and brought about a favourable lipid profile. Additional research published in the Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences (2010) confirmed the anti-diabetic effect of various spices. Among the spices, fenugreek seeds, garlic, onion, and turmeric have been experimentally documented to possess anti-diabetic potential by either lowering blood sugar or reducing insulin. This is very promising for those who like a little spice in their life.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon: A little cinnamon in your smoothies or topping your oatmeal can go a long way towards balancing insulin levels. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care (2003) showed that cinnamon may cause muscle and liver cells to respond more readily to insulin, and therefore improve weight loss. Better response to insulin means better blood sugar balance and, therefore, less insulin in your body. Cinnamon also seems to reduce several risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. Just a 1/2 teaspoon a day for 20 days is enough to improve your insulin response and lower blood sugar by up to 20 percent. An additional research group from the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center found that Cinnamon reduces blood sugar, total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in subjects with type 2 diabetes in just 40 days of consumption of1-6 grams per day.
Beat inflammation with Ginger: Ginger is another fabulous herb proven to prevent and treat nausea from motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. It’s a potent antioxidant that works by blocking the potentially nauseating effects of serotonin on the gut. Like turmeric, ginger also possesses natural anti-inflammatory benefits and may improve blood flow. A study conducted at the University of Miami showed ginger extract also had a significant effect on reducing the pain of osteoarthritis. Similarly encouraging results were found in a 2006 study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. These researchers found powdered ginger killed ovarian cancer cells just as well or better than traditional chemotherapy. Slice up gingerroot and add it to stir-frys or simply boil it and drink it as a tea a few times a day.
Add a little colour with Curry: Curry is a rich source of curcumin (also called Tumeric) which naturally reduces inflammation, pain and swelling. In one clinical trial, participants who consumed 1200mg of cucuminoids (the antioxidant pigment found in turmeric) for two weeks found reduced morning stiffness and joint swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis. A study from Tufts University in Boston suggest that curcumin may help with fat metabolism and weight loss. The researchers studied the effect of curcumin both in mice fed a high-fat diet over a period of 12 weeks. They found that curcumin did not affect food intake but reduced body weight gain, fat accumulation, and density of fat tissue. Curcumin also increased expression of key enzymes involved in fat oxidation. Blood cholesterol levels were also lowered by curcumin treatment. Dosages range from 500mg to 2000mg daily. Be sure to take it with food to avoid heartburn or related discomfort.