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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.

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Foods that Lower High Blood Pressure [Hypertension]

High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as a repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mm of Hg- a systolic pressure above 140 and a diastolic pressure above 90 mm of Hg. Today approximately one billion people worldwide have high blood pressure according to the Healthstats webpage. That translates to about one out of every four adults being affected with hypertension.

The Australian Health Foundation has mentioned that lifestyle modification is an important treatment strategy that should be applied regardless of other indicated treatments for patients with hypertension. A healthy low fat low sodium diet and regular exercise are major factors in managing high blood pressure. Apart from the daily dose of prescribed medicines, below is a list of some medicinal foods that help in reducing blood pressure.

Garlic Lowers High Blood Pressure And Helps To Maintain Cholesterol Levels

Naturopaths routinely claim that garlic is one of the world’s longest used medicinal foods. Garlic was an important medicine to ancient Egyptians listed in the medical text Codex Ebers. The ancient Indian Ayurvedic text Charak Samhita recommends the use of garlic in treating heart disease and blood pressure.

 One of the major breakthroughs in the research of garlic study was the discovery of allicin in 1944 by an Italian chemist, C. J. Cavallito. In their research article, “Effects of Garlic on High Blood Pressure,” Nigel Stocks and Thomas Sullivan have mentioned that the blood pressure reducing properties of garlic are due to its hydrogen sulphide production and allicin content.

Garlic helps in the control of blood pressure. It acts by reducing the formation of clots and thereby reducing blood pressure. It also lowers the blood cholesterol level. Apart from its heart benefits, garlic has antioxidant properties that help in fighting against cancer. It is also one of the commonly used home remedies to fight cold as it improves the immune system.

Saffron Is A Natural Remedy Used in Treating High Blood Pressure

Saffron is one of the world’s oldest and most expensive spices. This exotic herb finds mention in several ancient texts. It is specially mentioned in Bhavprakash Nighantu,an ancient Ayurvedic text for its significant use in treating high blood pressure. Saffron finds many uses in ancient Ayurvedic, Unani and Tibetan medicine in heart diseases, acne and digestive disorders.

According to Dr. George Jacob of Heart Infocenter, saffron contains a chemical called crocetin that helps to lower the blood pressure. It should never be consumed in large quantities as it causes unconsciousness. Just a pinch of saffron can be used while cooking like adding in rice dishes or to a cup of freshly brewed tea.

Tomatoes Play A Key Role In Reducing High Blood Pressure

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene which is a disease fighting antioxidant. It is also found in grapefruits,apricots and papaya. According to recent studies tomatoes are an excellent source for managing high blood pressure and fighting cancer. In the book Tomatoes, Lycopene and Human Health Dr. Esther Parran says “The results of short term treatments with tomato extracts have been encouraging since they help to reduce blood pressure in mild to moderate hypertensives.”

According to an article published in China Daily on February 1, 2001, researchers in Israel found that a daily dose of tomato extract helped lower the blood pressure among 31men and women with mild hypertension. Tomatoes are high in gamma-amino butyric acid(GABA) a compound that helps to lower the blood pressure.

Phytonutrients In Broccoli Help In Heart Disease By Reducing High Blood Pressure

Glucorapharin,a naturally occurring compound found in broccoli sprouts and broccoli may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke according to a new research published in the May issue of the Proceedings of The Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Broccoli plays a key role in the reduction of heart disease risk according to recent studies. Broccoli is rich in phytonutrients. Researchers from the University of Hawaii have shown that phytonutrients help in reducing the blood pressure by significantly reducing the formation of plaques in blood vessels. Phytonutrients are found in other green leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage and are known for their anti-cancerous properties as well.

High blood pressure can be naturally cured with the help of a Naturopathic Doctor. While medical doctors look to only control the symptoms by treating it with dangerous medications with harmful side effects. To help treat hypertension naturally, regular exercise is extremely necessary for controlling blood pressure and heart disease. Dietary changes like reducing sodium intake and having a healthy low fat diet go a long way in managing hypertension. To help create a natural healing program for High Blood Pressure contact Dr Akilah for a consultation.

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Free Yummy and Healthy Recipes to Lower Hypertension