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6 of the World's Healthiest Spices
April 29, 2011
Marilyn and I hope you're well and benefiting from adding Nature's Health Foods to your diet!

Today we thought we'd share with you 6 of the World's Healthiest Spices.

Spices to save your life.

Modern science is beginning to uncover the ultimate power of spices and herbs, as weapons against illnesses from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

We’re now starting to see a scientific basis for why people have been using spices medicinally for thousands of years.

In India, where spices tend to be used by the handful, incidence of diet-related diseases like heart disease and cancer have long been low.

But when Indians move away and adopt more Westernized eating patterns, their rates of those diseases rise rapidly.

While researchers usually blame the meatier, fattier nature of Western diets, experts believe that herbs and spices, or more precisely, the lack of them, are also an important piece of the dietary puzzle.

When Indians eat more Westernized foods, they’re getting much fewer spices than their traditional diet contains.

They lose the protection those spices are conveying.

While science has yet to show that any spice cures disease, there’s compelling evidence that several may help manage some chronic conditions (though it’s always smart to talk with your doctor).

And of course, seasoning your dishes with spices allows you to use less of other ingredients linked with health problems, such as salt, added sugars and sources of saturated fat.

What’s not to love?

Here we’ve gathered six of the healthiest spices and herbs enjoyed around the world.


Pairs well with: Squashes; parsley; rosemary; thyme; walnuts.

May help: Preserve memory, soothe sore throats.

Today’s herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats; one study found that spraying sore throats with a sage solution gave effective pain relief.

And whoever gave the herb, the wisdom-connoting “sage” moniker, may have been onto something: preliminary research suggests the herb may improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning.

In another study, college students who took sage extracts in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests, and their moods improved.


Pairs well with: Potatoes; citrus; honey; garlic; onions; chile peppers.

May help: Enhance mental focus, fight foodborne bacteria.

In ancient Greece, scholars wore rosemary garlands to help them study, and one recent study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles.

Rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry, and there’s scientific wisdom behind that tradition: rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling, and may even make cooked meats healthier.

In March, Kansas State University researchers reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.


Pairs well with: Garlic; citrus; ingredients in curry powder, such as coriander & cumin.

May help: Quell inflammation, inhibit tumors.

In India, turmeric paste is applied to wounds to speed healing; people sip turmeric tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems.

Modern medicine confirms some solid-gold health benefits as well; most are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researcher's are bullish on curcumin’s potential as a cancer treatment, particularly in colon, prostate and breast cancers; preliminary studies have found that curcumin can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

Chile Pepper

Pairs well with: Ginger; chocolate; beans; beef.

May help: Boost metabolism.

Chiles, which create sensations of heat, from mild to fiery, are especially prized in hot climates since, ironically, the spice helps trigger the body’s natural cooling systems.

Studies show that capsaicin, a pungent compound in hot chiles, revs up the body’s metabolism and may boost fat burning, but the jury is still out on whether that translates to long-term weight loss.

Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chile hybrids, have the same effects, so even tamer sweet paprika packs a healthy punch.

Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria and help the heart by keeping “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form.


Pairs well with: Soy sauce; citrus; chile peppers; garlic.

May help: Soothe an upset stomach, fight arthritis pain.

Traditionally used to relieve colds and stomach troubles, ginger is rich in inflammation-fighting compounds, such as gingerols, which some experts believe may hold promise in fighting some cancers and reducing arthritis pain.

In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed exercises designed to strain their muscles (compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules).

Another study found that ginger extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis pain of the knee.

And ginger’s reputation as a stomach soother seems deserved: studies show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery or chemotherapy, though it’s less effective for motion sickness.


Pairs well with: Cloves; nutmeg; allspice; chocolate; fruit; nuts.

May help: Stabilize blood sugar.

Cinnamon was prized by King Solomon and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to boost appetite and relieve indigestion.

A few studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food, up to a tsp. a day, usually given in capsule form, might help people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar, by lowering post-meal blood-sugar spikes.

And, here's a great recipe that you'll want to try!

Light and Creamy Fettuccine With Asparagus

Pick up some fresh asparagus at the farmer's market for an easy-to-make weeknight meal.


* 1/2 lb. fettuccine

* 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and diagonally sliced

* 2 tsp. trans-free margarine

* 4 med. cloves garlic, minced

* 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour

* 1 1/4 c. fat-free milk

* 1/4 c. reduced-fat cream

* 1/3 c. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

* 2 Tbs. chopped toasted

* sea salt

* coarsely ground black pepper


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Add the fettuccine and cook for 6 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in the asparagus and cook 4 to 6 minutes more, or until the fettuccine is al dente and asparagus is crisp-tender.

Scoop out 1/2 c. pasta-cooking water and reserve.

Drain the pasta and asparagus and return to the cooking pot; cover to keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth.

Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until thickened and smooth.

Remove from the heat.

3. Whisk in the cream cheese and Gorgonzola until smooth and blended.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss, adding pasta water to moisten, if necessary.

Sprinkle with the walnuts.

Recipe Notes:

Add grilled chicken or shrimp to the dish for a protein boost.


343 Calories,

16 g. Protein,

54 g. Carbohydrates,

5 g. Fiber,

8 g. Fat,

3 g. Saturated Fat,

9 mg. Cholesterol,

213 mg. Sodium

Sadly, that's all the time we have for today.

We know you'll enjoy the Fettuccine, and we hope you found some value in this Edition!

Until next time, we want you to,

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