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Spice Up Your Health

By Paul Rothbart

With the popularity of cooking shows, home prepared meals are reaching new levels of sophistication and utilize a broader array of ingredients. Exotic tastes from many cultures around the world have lifted dining from the mundane to the sublime. In addition to their flavors, many of these ingredients, particularly the spices, have health benefits. Here are some that may surprise you.

Cinnamon 

Popular in baking and holiday treats, cinnamon has a distinct flavor that pleases most taste buds. It also is helpful in maintaining blood sugar levels. First, it can be used as a sweetener in place of sugar, thus cutting back on glucose intake. Studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. 

Cinnamon is also good for heart health. It may reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. For those who are at greater risk for heart disease, this is an especially good spice to include in meals. It's not just for desserts either. Cinnamon makes a good meat rub and adds a subtle sweetness to stews.

Cayenne

Some like it hot and if you do, you'll get more than just heat from this spicy pepper. The substance that makes cayenne hot, capsaicin, is an effective pain reliever. Capsaicin cuts down on pain signals sent to the brain. This is great for those with arthritis and in fact, many muscle relief creams contain capsaicin. Add some Cajun, Creole or Mexican dishes to your repertoire and reap the benefits of this spice.

Turmeric

Like curry? Turmeric is a key spice in Indian and other Asian cuisines. Tasty? Absolutely, but due to the presence of curcumin, turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory. For arthritis sufferers, this will reduce swelling and pain while adding an exotic flavor. Curcumin also reduces inflammation in the brain. This can help to prevent depression and Alzheimer's, both of which have been linked to brain swelling. So whip up the occasional curry or use turmeric as a meat rub.

Ginger

There's a reason everybody was chasing the gingerbread man. This spice is very tasty and a common ingredient in Asian dishes. But it's not just the flavor that makes it special. Ginger can relieve nausea and diarrhea. It has also been shown to curb morning sickness in pregnant women. Try adding a little to your tea.

Spices are an important element in cooking dishes with complex flavors. It's fun to try the cuisines of other cultures and enhance mealtimes. There are also health benefits to many of these delicious ingredients. So spice it up! Your taste buds and the rest of your body will be happy you did.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Miami Gardens, Fla.

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