Many kitchen spices have warming properties that can enhance your health as the weather turns colder. While they are available in supplement form, use them in recipes whenever possible.
Weight for weight, spices provide more antioxidant polyphenols than any other types of food. This gives them their intense flavour, so you only need small amounts to add enticing aromas and tastes.
Even so, these teaspoon amounts and even tiny sprinkles, can provide significant health benefits, just like small doses of medicine!
Known as the King of Spices, black pepper is so revered for its flavour that its health benefits are often overlooked. Black peppercorns contain a high level of antioxidant polyphenols which contribute to its sharp flavour and pleasant tingling on the tongue.
It is also a source of piperine – an alkaloid that boosts the absorption of some substances (such as the curcumin found in turmeric) but blocks the absorption of others, such as cholesterol.
Research shows that black pepper can lower cholesterol levels and is currently under investigation for possible effects in protecting against bowel cancer.
While mainly used in savoury dishes, black pepper goes particularly well with fresh strawberries, enhancing their taste. Black pepper is my favourite spice – I add it to everything, and even grind it onto bread rolls and butter in restaurants which attracts some funny looks!
Cayenne pepper has a distinctive burning heat due to the presence of capsaicin, an irritant alkaloid that burns the mouth. This ‘heat’ effect also stimulates circulation and increases your metabolic rate.
Researchers have found that your metabolic rate increases by up to 50% so you burn fat faster for three hours after eating a spicy meal – enough to burn approximately 50 kcals extra per day.
Cayenne pepper also suppresses appetite by increasing sensations of fullness and decrease the desire for carbohydrate-rich foods. Cayenne also stimulates production of natural painkillers (endorphins) in the brain to lift your mood.
Other health benefits, which are not fully understood, also appear to promote longevity. Data from over 16,000 adults who ate the hottest red chili peppers were 13% less likely to die from any medical cause over a 19-year follow-up period than those who did not eat chili peppers. What an excellent reason to spice up your diet!
Ginger is one of the oldest known medicinal spices. It contains a variety of unique chemicals such as gingerol and zingerone which can improve diabetes control, cholesterol balance and relieve nausea.
Ginger is also used to relieve indigestion, flatulence, poor circulation – especially Raynaud’s disease – and migrainous headaches. It is increasingly used to reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis.
Ginger is delicious in soups, sauces, salad dressings, marinades, fresh juices, infusions and desserts. Crystallised ginger is a popular...