Written by: Danielle Christy, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Spices have been around since early civilization. Hunters and gatherers would use them to wrap meat in the leaves of bushes, discovering that this process enhanced the meat's taste, as did certain nuts, seeds, berries, and bark. Over the years, spices and herbs were used for medicinal purposes. They were also used to mask unpleasant tastes and odors of food, and later, to keep food fresh. Influenced from all over the world from Ancient Egypt, early Chinese, ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, and ancient Mesopotamia. All of these areas around the world have brought ten remedies, healings, and cooking techniques to the spices we use today.
Spices not only impart flavor to food but also heal the body in amazing ways. A few most common spices we are familiar with are:
1. Cinnamon - Cinnamon can lower blood sugar by several mechanisms, including slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract and improving insulin sensitivity. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes, from chicken to cookies.
2. Sage - There is promising evidence that sage extract can improve brain and memory function, especially in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Peppermint - Many studies have shown that peppermint oil can improve pain management in irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. It can also boost mood and energy for workouts.
4. Turmeric - Curcumin is a remarkably powerful antioxidant helping to fight oxidative damage and boosting the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. This is important because oxidative damage is believed to be one of the key mechanisms behind aging and many diseases. Curcumin is also strongly anti-inflammatory, to the point where it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs. Make sure you add black pepper anytime you're cooking with it to ensure you get the full health benefits.
5. Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne pepper is very rich in capsaicin, which reduces appetite and boosts fat burning. It has also shown anti-cancer potential in animal studies. Add a pinch to your favorite spice blends and dips to add that extra kick.
6. Ginger - 1 gram of ginger appears to be an effective treatment for many types of nausea. It is also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce pain. It adds a ton of flavor to ethnic cuisines and delicious steeped in hot water for tea.
7. Fenugreek - Fenugreek has been shown to improve insulin function, leading to significant reductions in blood sugar levels. Also known to increase libido and in women who are breastfeeding. It can be used to promote milk flow
8. Rosemary - Helps prevent allergies and nasal congestion. Delicious for roasting meats and vegetables and cuts down carsinigions in meat when they are grilled or cooked at a high heat.
9. Cilantro - promote the detoxification of heavy metals, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, lower blood sugar levels, boost your heart health, support your digestion, promote skin health, and fight free radical damage that can lead to several degenerative diseases
10. Mustard Seeds - excellent source of folate, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Plus, mustard seeds can reduce inflammation that causes pain and swelling, treat gum disease, boost the health of your heart, skin, and hair, and help to prevent or fight infections due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties. Also great to sprinkle on cooked broccoli to ensure you get full nutritional benefits.
The best way to get more spices into your life is to cook at home and experiment with a variety of spices that will add tons of flavor and make food more enjoyable. A few tips on storing spices they stay fresh for about 6 months, store in a dark, cool place, and only buy what you know you will use. There is no need to buy something you won’t use. Buy organic when you can, and for a quick flavor bomb, heat some olive oil in a pan with a mixture of whole spices to bloom and cook for a few minutes, then pour over your favorite proteins or vegetables. Remember, have fun and fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to live a life well-loved.
Danielle Christy, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Danielle Christy is a holistic health coach and self-taught personal chef dedicated to helping families and people around the world stop feeling overwhelmed with healthy cooking by showing and coaching them on how to stock their kitchens with healthy ingredients, meal plan and get back to having family meals again. Danielle holds a BA in Hospitality from Northern Arizona University and Certified Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She has helped families of all shapes and sizes create and establish a concrete strategy to ultimate health through learning what individually works for them and using whole real food as the medicine of life.