Whether we’re warming up with a savory soup or baking some cookies for the office potluck, many of us are finding ourselves cooking more during the colder months of the year. And that often means digging through our spice cabinet—or running out to pick up that one we didn’t realize we used up last year.
Did you know that many everyday spices are actually packed with health benefits? Let’s look at the surprising benefits of some common, and not so common, spices you might need for your next dish.
Second only to salt, this may be the most popular spice available, one that most of us have handy at the kitchen table or close by the stove. Black pepper contains powerful antioxidants and can even help your body absorb nutrients. Additionally, this spice may help your body digest fats and carbohydrates. Before you overwhelm your food with pepper, remember, with spices like pepper, a little goes a long way.
For increased health benefits—and bigger flavor—try cracked black pepper. You can buy whole black peppercorns in bulk and crack them in a peppermill. However, if you don’t want to go through all that trouble, you can try buying an extra coarse ground black pepper.
Cardamom may not be a spice that you immediately recognize, but it has been in your chai tea this whole time! Cardamom is very common in Indian and Middle Eastern foods, and it can be used in all kinds of recipes, both sweet and savory. Cardamom may help combat some of the factors, like high cholesterol and hypertension, that lead to metabolic syndrome. In fact, research on cardamom has found potential links between cardamom consumption and increased heart, liver, and oral health.
Try sprinkling some cardamom on top of your coffee, add it in your pumpkin pie filling, or use it to create an extra delicious curry dish. You may be surprised by how much you enjoy this health-boosting spice!
It may be no surprise to see cinnamon on this list. A very common spice, especially around this time of year, cinnamon has long been known to help regulate blood sugar levels. It can also help fight—or prevent—heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Additionally, because of its potent impact on blood sugar, studies have indicated that cinnamon intake may help diabetic patients improve their fasting blood sugar levels.
What isn’t cinnamon good in or on? Try sprinkling it on your yogurt, adding it to your oatmeal, or even using it in a dry rub for your next meat dish. Cinnamon can add a warmth to savory meals, and it can add sweetness to other dishes without needing to add extra sugar.
Ginger can be found in so many delicious things right now—hello gingerbread cookies!
A lot of us know that foods containing ginger can help with digestive issues—particularly ginger ale and ginger tea. That’s why ginger ale is such a common drink for stomach bugs and airplane passengers. But ginger can do so much more than help curb nausea. Studies show that ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can aid cardiovascular health, prevent fat storage, reduce joint swelling, and help your muscles recover after a good workout. In fact, due to its ability to enhance thermogenesis (the process that helps your body burn fat), studies have suggested that ginger may help with weight management.
With everything ginger can do for your health, it is a good idea to keep it as a regular part of your diet. You can top your sushi with ginger, add some to your favorite stir fry, look for a green juice that includes it, or just grab some ginger chews to keep in your desk at work.
Turmeric is that beautiful yellow-golden spice that tastes pretty much like earth. Turmeric is in way more things than you might think and can be added to everything from soups to shakes to add some color or just nutritional benefit. Turmeric is a very potent spice as far as health benefits go. It contains curcumin, which gives turmeric its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, turmeric may help fight anything from Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis pain.
Making some chicken soup? Add turmeric for extra healing benefits and for that classic chicken soup color. Ever tried a golden latte? Mix some honey and turmeric in with your steamed milk to create a treat for your eyes and your health!
We challenge you to find a way to include a sprinkle of one of these health-boosting spices to your next culinary creation—whether that’s a microwaveable meal or a seven-course feast. You won’t just be spicing-up your food, you’ll be spicing-up your health!