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5 Flavor-Boosting Spices with Healing Benefits

Five top botanical healers are probably already in your spice rack. Here's the lowdown on their disease-blocking health benefits.

5 Flavor-Boosting Spices with Healing Benefits

Five of Mother Nature's best botanical healers are probably already on your spice rack. Here's the lowdown on their disease-blocking benefits. Just sprinkle, savor, and smile. You're doing your body (and your RealAge) good.

Worried about your blood sugar? Or cholesterol?

Kitchen Rx: Load a shaker with cinnamon and a few dashes of cloves. Cinnamon's got MHCP, a compound that tells cells in your body to absorb blood sugar. Researchers have found that eating as little as 1/4 teaspoon a day can lower blood sugar by 18% and bad LDL cholesterol by 7%. (Your doc will be so impressed at your next checkup!) Cloves seem to have the same effect, sending three bad guys packing: excess blood sugar, bad cholesterol, and heart-threatening triglycerides.

When you make your mix, just use a light hand with the cloves, and keep tasting. Eugenol -- the chemical that gives cloves medicinal value and most of their flavor -- is super potent. The idea is to complement cinnamon's flavor, not bury it.

Keep this warm-and-cozy spice mixture on your counter to sprinkle on your oatmeal, apple slices, yogurt, or peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and even stir into your coffee. Try adding a few shakes to stews and slow cooker recipes, too.

Working to keep your heart (and tummy) happy?

Kitchen Rx: Make turmeric a staple in your pantry. Your arteries love curry because turmeric -- which is what gives curry that lovely marigold-yellow color and peppery zing -- keeps your blood vessels flexible and clog-free. In turn, turmeric owes its heart-healthy reputation to curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that cools inflammation and keeps plaque from glomming onto artery walls. Curcumin also lowers blood cholesterol and makes your blood less likely to form heart-stopping clots. Another reason to smile when you sit down to a meal straight out of Bollywood!

Curries are just the beginning, BTW. Sprinkle turmeric on sauteed vegetables, baked fries, chili, rice (add to cooking water at the start), and even scrambled eggs. And use as a dry rub on chicken before broiling.

Keep the mustard within reach, too, because, yes, it's turmeric that gives most yellow mustard its color. And mustard is so low cal that (unlike mayo) you can slather it on sandwiches to get your daily dose of turmeric (which is also a digestion easer).

Does the word "carcinogen" make you twitch?

Kitchen Rx: Go crazy for ginger and rosemary, especially if you also go crazy for grilling. Grilling meat (pretty much any meat, burgers to steaks, pork to poultry) creates cancer-promoting compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs for short). It's the blazing hot grill temp that causes the trouble. Instead of trying to resist cookouts and barbecues, just marinate meat before grilling (makes it more delish anyway) and add ginger and rosemary to the seasoning. Their antioxidants prevent up to 40% of HCAs from forming. And marinating (even for just 10 minutes) shuts off even more of the HCAs. Use olive oil and vinegar, teriyaki sauce, lemon juice, garlic, your own secret sauce, whatever.

Doing burgers? Mix yummy ginger and rosemary into ground or shredded beef. Add some turmeric as well; in addition to everything else, it helps disarm HCAs. Who knew?

Do you use any spices for their medicinal value?

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July, 2011