Spices and herbal supplements and their potential health benefits seem to be under continuous, exhaustive debate. It can be a confusing task trying to tell the difference between information backed by research with proven results and information backed by a good marketing campaign.
Understanding how to separate herbs and spices with actual health benefits and those linked to the latest fad can be a challenge, but these key points can get you started.
The difference between herbs and spices
Both herbs and spices come from a variety of plants. You can purchase them dried, fresh as seeds or even as plants. What defines them as one or the other is the part of the plant they came from.
Herbs are plant leaves harvested for culinary, aromatic and medicinal uses. Some common herbs include basil, parsley and cilantro.
Spices are any other part of the plant harvested for similar uses. Some examples include cinnamon (bark), ginger (roots), cumin (aromatic seeds), cloves (buds) and peppercorns (berries).
Commonly used spices with health benefits
Use these tips to work commonly used spices with proven health benefits into your diet.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to improve disorders such as liver and lung damage, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease and neurodegenerative diseases.
How to use turmeric: Penn State Extension recommends adding a teaspoon to cooking water to make rice or adding a few teaspoons with olive oil and pepper to roast vegetables.
Ginger contains the compound gingerol, which has been linked to pain relief and decreasing hypertension. It is also an anti-inflammatory that has been used effectively to treat an upset stomach.
How to use ginger: Penn State Extension recommends adding a dash of ginger to your smoothie or tea or sprinkling it over roasted nuts or seeds.
Garlic has been linked to improving heart disease and decreasing bad cholesterol.
How to use garlic: Penn State Extension recommends Adding it to a salad dressing or sauce. To prepare it, place a few peeled cloves on foil and drizzle them with oil. Grill them from about a half hour, until they are tender.
Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant. When used in large amounts it has been linked to stabilizing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
How to use cinnamon: Penn State Extension recommends sprinkling cinnamon over your cereal or substituting sugar for cinnamon in your coffee or tea every morning.
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