Ask Elesha: July 2013
Spice Up Your Life
Though not typically top of mind when it comes to nutrition, herbs and spices can have numerous health benefits, including prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infection and other health maladies. With their powerful phytochemical compounds, herbs and spices have strong antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Herbs come from plants, while spices are derived from seeds, berries, bark and the roots of plants. They are great flavor enhancers for your favorite foods, especially if you have to watch salt, sugar or fat intake. If you like to juice, add to your juice concoctions to further boost their nutritional value. The good news? Feel free to use liberally—the calories are negligible!
Very high antioxidant levels that protect cells from carcinogens.
Combats excessive inflammation, which can exacerbate and even lead to health problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Helps control blood sugar levels (particularly beneficial for diabetics).
Packed with fat-burning dihydrocapsiate.
Contain capsaicin, which has shown promising evidence of lowering blood pressure.
Helps neutralize carcinogens.
Contains flavenoids with antioxidant, cancer-fighting properties.
A good source of vitamins C and A, and folic acid, which enhances cardiovascular health.
Anti-inflammatory properties help ease rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Like parsley, basil contains flavenoids.
Anti-bacterial properties help prevent infection (use liberally during flu season!).
Aids in detoxification, controls blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol.
Like basil, cilantro reduces bacterial growth.
Help build immunity
Aromatherapy effects can boost mood.
Wheatgrass (typically used in powder form)
Improved bowel and gastrointestinal function.
High chlorophyll content aids in detoxification and helps prevent cancer.
High in fiber, which can aid in weight loss and constipation.
Though by definition, garlic is not an herb or a spice, it is used in many dishes to add flavor and has strong anti-cancer effects.
The Bottom Line
Even relatively small amounts of dried and fresh herbs and spices have health benefits. When used at their peak freshness, they provide an easy way to add a little zest and nutritional boost to your diet.