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8 of the World’s Healthiest Spices & Herbs You Should Be Eating

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.,

As a registered dietitian and associate nutrition editor at EatingWell Magazine, I know that herbs and spices do more than simply add flavor to food. They let you cut down on some less-healthy ingredients, such as salt, added sugars and saturated fat, and some have inherent health benefits, many of which Joyce Hendley reported on for EatingWell Magazine.

Modern science is beginning to uncover the ultimate power of spices and herbs, as weapons against illnesses from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. “We’re now starting to see a scientific basis for why people have been using spices medicinally for thousands of years,” says Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and author of Healing Spices (Sterling, 2011).

Aggarwal notes that in his native India, where spices tend to be used by the handful, incidence of diet-related diseases like heart disease and cancer have long been low. But when Indians move away and adopt more Westernized eating patterns, their rates of those diseases rise. While researchers usually blame the meatier, fattier nature of Western diets, Aggarwal and other experts believe that herbs and spices-or more precisely, the lack of them-are also an important piece of the dietary puzzle. “When Indians eat more Westernized foods, they’re getting much fewer spices than their traditional diet contains,” he explains. “They lose the protection those spices are conveying.”

While science has yet to show that any spice cures disease, there’s compelling evidence that several may help manage some chronic conditions (though it’s always smart to talk with your doctor). What’s not to love? Here we’ve gathered eight of the healthiest spices and herbs enjoyed around the world.

Chile Peppers
May help: Boost metabolism.

Chile peppers add a much-appreciated heat to chilly-weather dishes, and they can also give a boost to your metabolism. Thank capsaicin, the compound that gives fresh chiles, and spices including cayenne and chipotle, their kick. Studies show that capsaicin can increase the body’s metabolic rate (causing one to burn more calories) and may stimulate brain chemicals that help us feel less hungry. In fact, one study found that people ate 16 percent fewer calories at a meal if they’d sipped a hot-pepper-spiked tomato juice (vs. plain tomato juice) half an hour earlier. Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chile hybrids, have the same effects-so even tamer sweet paprika packs a healthy punch. Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria and help the heart by keeping “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form.
Ginger
May help: Soothe an upset stomach, fight arthritis pain.

Ginger has a well-deserved reputation for relieving an unsettled stomach. Studies show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery or chemotherapy, though it’s less effective for motion sickness. But ginger is also packed with inflammation-fighting compounds, such as gingerols, which some experts believe may hold promise in fighting some cancers and may reduce the aches of osteoarthritis and soothe sore muscles. In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed exercises designed to strain their muscles (compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules). Another study found that ginger-extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis pain of the knee.
Cinnamon
May help: Stabilize blood sugar.

A few studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food-up to a teaspoon a day, usually given in capsule form-might help people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar, by lowering post-meal blood-sugar spikes. Other studies suggest the effects are limited at best.

Turmeric
May help: Quell inflammation, inhibit tumors.

Turmeric, the goldenrod-colored spice, is used in India to help wounds heal (it’s applied as a paste); it’s also made into a tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. Modern medicine confirms some solid-gold health benefits as well; most are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Researcher Bharat Aggarwal is bullish on curcumin’s potential as a cancer treatment, particularly in colon, prostate and breast cancers; preliminary studies have found that curcumin can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

Saffron
May help: Lift your mood.

Saffron has long been used in traditional Persian medicine as a mood lifter, usually steeped into a medicinal tea or used to prepare rice. Research from Iran’s Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital at Tehran University of Medical Sciences has found that saffron may help to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and depression. In one study, 75% of women with PMS who were given saffron capsules daily reported that their PMS symptoms (such as mood swings and depression) declined by at least half, compared with only 8 percent of women who didn’t take saffron.
Parsley
May help: Inhibit breast cancer-cell growth.

University of Missouri scientists found that this herb can actually inhibit breast cancer-cell growth, reported Holly Pevzner in the September/October 2011 issue of EatingWell Magazine. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley (and in celery), boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors. Experts recommend adding a couple pinches of minced fresh parsley to your dishes daily.

Sage
May help: Preserve memory, soothe sore throats.

Herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats, a remedy supported by one study that found spraying sore throats with a sage solution gave effective pain relief. And preliminary research suggests the herb may improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. In another study, college students who took sage extracts in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests, and their moods improved.
Rosemary
May help: Enhance mental focus, fight foodborne bacteria.

One recent study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles. Rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry, and there’s scientific wisdom behind that tradition: rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling, and may even make cooked meats healthier. In March 2010, Kansas State University researchers reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)-cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.

www.healingpowerhour.com

17 Foods That Prevent Breast Cancer

About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer by the age of 95. Genetics play a strong role in some cases, but lifestyle and dietary factors may also play a role in many cases. Here are 17 foods that may help prevent breast cancer or, once the cancer has developed, prevent it from spreading.

Turmeric
In one study of mice, researchers found that turmeric helped to prevent breast cancer from spreading to the lungs.

Blueberries
According to one study, the phytochemicals in blueberries work together to stop the growth and spread of triple-negative breast cancer, which carries a poorer prognosis than other forms of breast cancer.

Tomatoes
Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which has been found to lower the risk of breast cancer.

Avocados
Avocados are high in oleic acid, which studies have found to prevent cancer.

Red Wine
Consumed in moderation, red wine is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer. However, drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day may increase the risk of breast cancer so moderation is the key.

Red wine has also been found to significantly reduce the effects of radiation in women undergoing radiation therapy for cancer. One study found that the resveratrol in red wine makes the cancer cells more susceptible to radiation treatment while protecting the healthy cells from damage.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts and all other cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which are powerful cancer fighters. Brussels sprouts appear to have the most beneficial combination of glucosinolates when it comes to warding off breast cancer and other types of cancer.

Pomegranate Juice
Promising research in Israel shows that pomegranate juice destroys breast cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. Pomegranate juice may also prevent new breast cancer cells from forming.

Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseeds contain high levels of lignans, which protect against . Lignans may protect against estrogen-dependent cancers.

Green Tea
Studies show that drinking green tea lowers the risk of developing breast cancer and prevents it from spreading in women who have already have the disease. This is due to a compound in green tea called EGCG.

Garlic
Studies show that garlic eradicates breast cancer cells in testHave some garlic with that meat. Research has found that cooking garlic with meat reduces the carcinogenic chemicals in cooked meat that may be linked to breast cancer.

Broccoli
Broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that fights breast cancer by converting the type of estrogen that causes cancer into a more cancer-protective type of estrogen.

Cauliflower
Like broccoli, cauliflower is a great source of indole-3-carbinol.

Spinach
One study found that women who ate spinach at least twice a week had half the rate of breast cancer as women who didn’t eat spinach.

Grapefruit
Studies show that grapefruit may inhibit breast cancer cells from proliferating.

Dark Cherries
Studies in rats found that a compound in cherries may inhibit breast cancer.

Kelp
A study at UC Berkeley found that a diet high in kelp lowered serum estradiol levels in women and had phytoestrogenic properties. Sea vegetables also contain chlorophylones, fatty acids that may help in the prevention of breast cancer. In addition, kelp contains fucoidan, which has been found in studies to induce apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells.

Artichokes
Research has found that artichoke leaf extract induces apoptosis (cell death) and reduces cell proliferation in many types of cancer, including breast cancer. One Italian study found that the flavanoids in artichokes reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter 

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