Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Can spices improve your health?

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 A spice is a seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for flavoring or as a garnish

We often add spices to our meals, whether that be savoury or sweet. They can accentuate the taste of meats, vegetables and puddings. But can the spice itself help boost your health?  HMHB will have a look at a few for you here, and you can make your own mind up.

Ginger is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or ginger, is widely used as a spice and a folk medicine. It can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes, as well as flavouring drinks.
It is a key component in many ancient and alternative medicines, and has been shown to help to fight nausea.  Studies show that 1g or more of ginger is enough to ease nausea, so including ginger in your diet is a great way to help ward off morning sickness, travel sickness, and side-effects of some medications.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties so can assist with pain management.
Several studies have investigated ginger's effects on the gasses that form in the intestinal tract during digestion. Some research indicates that enzymes in ginger can help the body break up and expel this gas, providing relief from any discomfort.
Ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase, which are important for digestion. In addition, it may help increase movement through the digestive tract, suggesting that it may relieve or prevent constipation.

Although Ginger does not provide protein or other nutrients, it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Studies have shown that, for that reason, ginger can reduce various types of oxidative stress.  This happens when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors. The body needs to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage that can lead to a range of diseases, including cancer.

Turmeric is a flowering plant, Curcuma Longa of the Ginger family, Zingiberaceae, the roots of which are used in cooking.
Turmeric contains Curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts that are standardized to include large amounts of curcumin. Chronic inflammation contributes to many common Western diseases. Curcumin can suppress many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation.
Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects. It neutralizes free radicals on its own but also stimulates your body's own antioxidant enzymes. Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases.
Turmeric boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in your brain.
Turmeric leads to several changes on the molecular level that may help prevent, and perhaps even treat, cancer. Studies have shown that it can contribute to the death of cancerous cells and reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumours) and metastasis (spread of cancer).

Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by joint inflammation. Many studies show that curcumin can help to treat symptoms of arthritis and is, in some cases, more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.
It can even help with your mental health.  A study of 60 people with depression showed that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in alleviating symptoms of the condition.

Garlic is a species of the onion genus, Allium.  Its close relatives include the onion, shailot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion. Garlic is native to Central Asia and North Eastern Iran, and has been used as a seasoning worldwide for many years.
Garlic is low in calories, in face calorie for calorie it is incredibly nutritious. One clove of raw garlic contains, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Selenium, Fibre, and small amounts of Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorous, Iron and Vitamin B1.
Garlic supplements are shown to help prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.
High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure for those with known high blood pressure (hypertension).  In some instances, supplements may be as effective as regular medications.
Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and aging,. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
It is common and easy to use in meals. And tasty too.
Finally - and the most important - it wards off vampires (well, be honest, do you ever see a vampire in the kitchen??).

HMHB says:
These are just three examples - but we could have used many more, like chillis or cinnamon. Have some fun and look some up. Use more in your cooking. Be brave. For some, it may feel daunting to add spices to your meal, especially when you have not been taught how to cook. Anything that can improve the taste of food, and do you good, has to be explored. 

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