Researchers have now identified new health benefits for several popular spices. You may recognize the names of these spices, but the latest studies suggest uses that are not widely known. Intriguing new research…
- Cholesterol. Artery-clogging fatty buildups are created or worsened when cholesterol oxidizes, a biochemical process similar to metal rusting. Cayenne pepper (also known as chili pepper) contains a plaque-fighting antioxidant (capsaicin), which is also available in supplement form.
Newest research: When researchers asked 27 people to eat a diet that included cayenne-spiced chili or the same diet with no chili for one month, the chili group had much lower harmful cholesterol than those who did not eat chili. In addition to protecting cholesterol from oxidation, cayenne pepper also stimulates digestion and improves circulation-an important benefit for people with chronically cold hands and feet.
My recommendation: Use a cayenne-based hot sauce, to taste. I add it to a variety of foods, including chicken dishes and sandwiches.
Caution: In some people, cayenne causes digestive problems. If you experience stomach upset or anal irritation, use a milder hot sauce, cut back the amount or stop using it.
- Alzheimer's disease. Herbalists and many doctors report that sage may help patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
Newest research: Neurons of lab animals exposed to amyloid beta (the main constituent of harmful plaques in Alzheimer's) and sage leaves or rosmarinic acid (an active ingredient in sage) were less damaged than when the cells were exposed to amyloid beta alone. However, you cannot achieve this potential health benefit from the amount of sage used in cooking.
My recommendation: Drink sage tea.
What to do: Pour 8 ounces of boiling water Over a tea strainer or tea ball that contains onehalf teaspoon of ground sage. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Drink 4 ounces twice a day. (Refrigerate any unused portion and gently reheat before drinking.)
Alternative: Use sage tea bags. Or add 20 to 30 drops of sage tincture to 1 ounce of water—drink this amount three times daily.
- Cancer. Laboratory studies of human cells show that rosemary may help prevent certain types of cancer.
Newest research: The rate at which human leukemia and breast cancer cells multiplied in a laboratory study was reduced when researchers exposed the cells to rosemary extract. More research is needed to confirm these benefits in human study subjects, but rosemary extract is safe to use in the meantime. Cooking with rosemary does not provide this potential health benefit.
My recommendation: Drink rosemary tea.
What to do: Pour 12 ounces of boiling water over a tea strainer or tea ball that contains one-half teaspoon of rosemary. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Drink 4 ounces, three times a day. (Refrigerate unused tea.)
Alternative: Use rosemary tea bags. Or add 40 to 60 drops of rosemary tincture to 1 ounce of water-drink this amount three times daily.
How To Use Spices
The active ingredients in spices can eventually deteriorate after processing. For example, levels of antioxidants, known as carotenoids, in paprika drop by 75% after three months of storage.
My recommendation: Buy no more than a one-year supply of any spice you plan to use—and replace it annually. Keep your spices away from light, moisture and heat--for example, not near the oven. Consider buying whole rather than powdered spices, and grind them right before using, with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. To tell whether a spice is rich in health-promoting compounds, smell and/or taste it-the richer the odor and flavor, the better the spice.