Apart from their wonderful flavors, these kitchen-cupboard spices boast antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even cancer-fighting properties.
April 14, 2008
1 of 7Photo: Colin Peterson
Rx Spice Rack
Although fancy-sounding plants such as Echinacea and gingseng often steal the health-food spotlight, many phytonutrient-rich ingredients live right in your kitchen cabinets. Ordinary spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne are loaded with antioxidants and deliver surprising health benefits that range from easing joint pain to fighting cancer. And unlike many herbal remedies, these spices excel in the taste department and are a fat-, sugar-, and salt-free way to flavor your food.
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Cinnamon: Triple-Play Cinnamon Rolls
A small but much-publicized Pakistani study suggested that consuming as little as 1/4 teaspoon of the aromatic spice a day lowered blood sugar and cholesterol levels in patients with type II diabetes. While cinnamon's diabetic claims aren't yet conclusive, its larger health benefits are clear: just one teaspoon has the same amount of antioxidants as 5 1/2 cups of broccoli. So do the math: if this cinnamon roll recipe calls for a full tablespoon...
Those with tender palates may associate spicy food with pain, but clinical studies have shown that capsaicin, the active compound in chili peppers, can actually relieve headaches and arthritis by suppressing one of the body's neurotransmitters for pain. So for those who love cranking up the heat, these mouth-warming enchiladas are a treat for more than just the taste buds.
Used for centuries as a digestive and anti-bacterial agent in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a medical multitasker. The pigment in this bright yellow spice, called curcumin, has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and possibly cancer-fighting properties. Furthermore, a study at UCLA suggested that curcumin reduced Alzheimer-causing amyloid protein brain plaques in rats. So reach for this superspice–whether you hope to soothe an upset stomach, prevent colon cancer, or protect your brain.
Ginger: Halibut Steamed with Ginger, Orange, and Lime
Clinical studies back up air-sick travelers who order a ginger ale from the drink cart. In a trial involving 80 novice sailors, powdered ginger alleviated nausea more effectively than a placebo. This flavorful root also boasts anti-inflammatory qualities. Studies show it eases the discomfort of patients with osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, allowing them to use fewer drugs. In this recipe, both fresh and powdered ginger dress up a simple halibut filet.
Pomegranates, blueberries, and cranberries are all impressive performers when it comes to their antioxidant powers, but the humble clove outranks them all. A teaspoon of powdered cloves has 25% more antioxidant than a cup of pomegranate juice or half a cup of blueberries. So pull out your baking sheet and mix up a batch of these soft, spicy molasses cookies.