By Julie Upton
A pinch here and a dash there may be one of the best ways to improve your health.
Herbs and spices have been grown and cultivated for thousands of years—as far back as 5,000 BC—and have been used for their medicinal benefits since they were first cultivated.
Today, research shows that these culinary treasures do, in fact, provide protection against certain diseases with their antioxidant punch and can improve our diet by enhancing flavor without any extra calories, fat, sugar, or sodium.
The words herb and spice are often used interchangeably, but the two are botanically different. Herbs are generally considered to be the leafy part of the plant, while spices are any other part of the plant, like the buds (cloves), bark (cinnamon), roots (ginger), berries (peppercorns), and aromatic seeds (cumin).
Small amounts = big health benefits
A recent study that analyzed the antioxidant capacity of more than 1,000 foods in the U.S. food supply found that many herbs and spices provide more antioxidants than other foods.
In fact, of all the foods, cloves, ground oregano, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, basil, parsley, mustard, and curry ranked among the top 50 most concentrated antioxidant powerhouses.
Herbs and spices may also offer additional beneficial effects when combined with other foods. Studies show that when you add herbs and spices to other plant-based foods, such as tomatoes or whole grains, the health payoff is greater than when these foods are eaten without herbs or spices.
Five ways I spice up my life
1. Ground cinnamon: I use this in oatmeal and on top of lattes, and also sprinkle it on fruit with Greek yogurt.
2. Cilantro: I chop fresh cilantro into most of my dinner salads.
3. Ginger: I use grated or ground ginger in stir-fry dishes, as part of Asian marinades, and with fruit-based desserts.
4. Garlic: I add it to salad dressings and pasta dishes.
5. Fresh basil: I grow this herb and use it in salads and pasta dishes.
For more simple suggestions, read our Beginner's Guide to Herbs and Spices.Health World
Monthly Archives: December 2010
By Tina Haupert
The past few weeks of my life have been crazy. I bought a house (and moved into it), finished the edits for my book, and dedicated myself to training for a marathon. Needless to say, I haven't been getting a full eight hours of sleep every night!
It was on my recent trip to Washington, D.C., that I made the connection between my food selections and my lack of sleep. When I eat whole foods and get adequate sleep, I have plenty of energy and it's easy for me to stay on track with my Feel Great Weight goals. But for the past couple of weeks I've been exhausted, and I've found myself making some not-so-healthy food choices. I had brought a healthy breakfast with me to the airport, but I chose to eat a big muffin from Starbucks instead. I thought it was all in my head, but clearly, waking up at 4 in the morning influenced my decisions.
For me, sleep and healthy eating go hand in hand. When my diet includes lots of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and water, I have loads of energy. Preparing healthy meals and snacks is easy, and I feel much more in control of what I put into my body. Plus, my hunger becomes steady and predictable. A good night's rest also leads to a stronger body for me. The extra energy fuels my workouts. It's easier to stick to my weekly routine, and I find that I can run faster and farther, and lift more weight.
And it turns out I'm not alone! Research has shown that not getting enough sleep can seriously alter ghrelin and leptin levels, the two hormones that affect appetite! It makes sense now that I've been struggling with my workouts and food choices in recent weeks. I'm sure that my caffeine habit doesn't help either. Right now, I drink a glass of iced coffee in the morning. But sometimes I go back for a refill, which means I'm sipping two 16-ounce iced coffees until lunchtime! No wonder I sometimes have trouble sleeping! I had no idea that messing with my sleep schedule would start this type of chain reaction.
Now I know it's not all in my head. I'm sure cutting back on the caffeine I consume will also help me sleep more soundly, so I can put an end to this vicious sleep-eating cycle.Health World