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Spice It Up! 5 Essential Spices For Optimal Health

July 14, 2017

You probably already know that cooking with spices can take the flavors of your dishes to a whole other level, but did you know that many spices can also provide significant benefits to your health? These benefits range from treating nausea, to reducing blood sugar, and beyond.

 

1. Cinnamon

 

When most people think of cinnamon, churros and cinnamon rolls are probably the first things that come to mind. However, cinnamon may be one of the healthiest spices out there. Cinnamon contains cinnameldehyde, an organic compound that gives cinnamon its signature flavor and smell. It's also responsible for most of the powerful health benefits.

 

Studies have shown that cinnamon slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract and improves insulin sensitivity, resulting in lower blood sugar levels and an "anti-diabetic effect." In fact, it can lower fasting blood sugars by 10-29% in Type 2 Diabetic patients!

Cinnamon also plays an antioxidant role in the body, helping fight inflammation and lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides. 

 

Tips:

  • 1 - 6 grams (1/2 - 2 tsp) of cinnamon per day are needed to get the health benefits

  • Use Ceylon cinnamon instead of the cheaper Cassia variety found in most supermarkets. Although both types have the same health benefits, Cassia contains significant amounts of coumarin, which may be harmful in large doses. 

  • Try adding to prepared oatmeal, greek yogurt, peanut butter, or coffee

 

2. Cumin

 

Cumin is best known for its important role in aiding digestion. By increasing the release of bile from the liver and increasing the activity of digestive enzymes, cumin helps the body break down fats, absorb vitamins, and eliminate excess cholesterol. Cumin is also a rich source of antioxidants and iron. 

 

Tips:

  • You can get these benefits of cumin just by using small amounts to season food.

  • Use as the whole seed or ground

  • Used primarily in savory dishes such as chili, stews, meat, fish, and vegetables.

  • Cumin seed can be toasted to bring out its aromatic, nutty flavor. 

 

3. Ginger

Feeling nauseous? Ginger can help! This powerful spice can be used to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting from pregnancy, motion sickness, and chemotherapy. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can help with post-exercise muscle soreness or osteoarthritis pain. 

 

Tips:

  • 1 gram or more of ginger can be used to help treat nausea or inflammation

  • Do not take more than 4 grams per day. Pregnant women should not take more than 1 gram per day.

  • Ginger may lower blood sugar or increase risk of bleeding, so consult your doctor before using ginger if you have a bleeding disorder, diabetes, or take Warfarin or other blood thinners. 

 

4. Paprika

Paprika is a ground spice made from air-dried bell peppers. It is loaded with carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are responsible for its deep red color. These pigments can benefit your eyesight by preventing harmful light rays from damaging your eye tissues.

 

Paprika also contains Vitamin E and Iron. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and can help prevent the formation of blood clots. Iron supports cellular metabolism, allowing cells to carry out a series of chemical reactions that lead to energy production. It also helps transport and store oxygen that tissues need to function.

 

Tips:

  • 1 tbsp of paprika = 2 mg Vitamin E (13% recommended daily intake)

  • 1 tbsp of paprika = 1.4 mg Iron (8% recommended daily intake for women, 18% for men)

  • Combine with garlic powder and cayenne as a rub for meat, poultry, or fish, or lightly coat vegetables in olive oil and paprika and roast in oven. 

 

5. Turmeric

 

Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight oxidative damage and boost the body's own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin also has an anti-inflammatory effect. This is important because long-term inflammation has been shown to play a major role in many chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer's. 

 

Tips:

  • Most studies use turmeric extract with concentrated curcumin (usually more than 1 gram per day). This is very difficult to reach by just using the spice in foods. To reap these health benefits, you may choose to take a turmeric extract supplement.

  • Curcumin is poorly absorbed in the bloodstream. Black pepper contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances curcumin absorption by 2000%. Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may help to use it on a fatty meal or combine with olive/coconut oil. Try mixing it with black pepper and sprinkling on your morning eggs!

what's your favorite spice?

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Spice It Up,

Erika

 

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