Senior Health 10 Herbs and Spices with Health Benefits 7/1/2022 | By Seniors Guide Staff Some common food seasonings are beneficial to our bodies as well as our taste buds. We have compiled the guidance of four health sources to share 10 herbs, seasonings, and spices with health benefits. These benefits include reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing high cholesterol, and improving brain function – even in Alzheimer’s patients. We have also listed these resources at the bottom of the article for further reference. Spices and herbs have been used for centuries for culinary and medicinal purposes. Recent scientific research has supported the medicinal uses. “They can protect from acute and chronic diseases,” says a report in the NIH National Library of Medicine. “There is now ample evidence that spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering activities as well as properties that affect cognition and mood.” Spices with health benefits 1. Cinnamon If you’ve hit the trails or gym a little too hard recently, a sprinkle of cinnamon may help you recover faster. Women who ate about 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon (or ground ginger) every day for six weeks experienced a decrease in muscle soreness brought on by exercise, found research published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine. EatingWell.com BONUS: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, cinnamon can also lower blood sugar and provide heart-healthy benefits, including reducing high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 2. Garlic According to legend, garlic will keep vampires away! Although that’s not a 21-century concern, heart disease is, and eating garlic may protect your heart by keeping blood vessels flexible, especially in women. It may also reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. Johns Hopkins Medicine 3. Ginger Of spices with health benefits, ginger frequently pops to mind. Although you probably know ginger best as a stomach soother, it may also help you feel fuller and even burn more calories. When overweight men ate breakfast with ginger “tea” (powdered ginger dissolved in hot water), they felt more satisfied and ate less throughout the day than men who were given the same breakfast with just hot water, says research in the journal Metabolism. Plus, the men who drank ginger tea burned about 40 calories more just digesting their meal. EatingWell.com NOTE: Johns Hopkins Medicine cautions, “Ask your doctor first before taking ginger while on chemotherapy drugs, as it can have a negative interaction with certain medications.” 4. Vanilla There’s plenty to love about the flavor that vanilla adds to baked goods. Sniffing that delicious aroma can also help put the brakes on your sweet tooth. Overweight individuals who wore a vanilla-scented patch on the back of their hands for four weeks cut their intake of sweet foods (like sugary drinks and high-calorie desserts) in half, while people in the study who wore a lemon-scented patch or no patch showed no change in eating habits. “Vanilla helps offset the pleasure derived from sweet foods,” says Catherine Collins, RD, lead study author and ICU dietitian with Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust in the United Kingdom. To get a similar effect and to help you avoid overindulging in holiday sweets, light a vanilla-scented candle in your kitchen or wear a vanilla-infused body spray or perfume. EatingWell.com 5. Black pepper The most popular spice in the United States may also be an ally in your battle against holiday weight gain. A substance in black pepper called piperine may help block the formation of new fat cells, according to a recent study on mice from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. EatingWell.com 6. Turmeric Another popular spice with health benefits, turmeric, can help reduce inflammation. This offers two benefits of special interest to seniors. First, it can reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s and depression. Second, it works to reduce pain and swelling in those with arthritis. Johns Hopkins Medicine 7. Sage Like turmeric, sage may improve brain function and memory. The benefits of sage extend to healthy people, young and old, as well as those with dementia. Explains Healthline, “Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by a drop in the level of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain. Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine.” Healthline 8. Cayenne pepper Although we think of cayenne pepper as causing us pain if we eat too much, it has properties that can help reduce pain. Capsaicin, which is found in cayenne and other chili peppers, can be used externally in formulated creams to relieve pain caused by arthritis and diabetes-related nerve damage. Eating cayenne pepper also helps with ulcers “by restricting the growth of an ulcer-causing bacteria (Helicobacter pylorior H. pylori), reducing excess stomach acid, and increasing blood flow.” Johns Hopkins Medicine According to U.S. Pharmacist, “Studies from the American Association for Cancer Research also suggest that capsaicin is able to kill prostate cancer cells by causing them to undergo apoptosis.” 9. Peppermint Peppermint oil can relieve the pain of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by relaxing the colon’s smooth muscles and reducing abdominal bloating. It might even be useful in fighting nausea when used in aromatherapy. Healthline 10. Rosemary Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to suppress allergic responses and nasal congestion. Healthline Consider the health benefits of spices and herbs when preparing foods Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests that you can benefit from using spices fresh or dried. However, they say that how you use them matters. Sprinkle them directly in foods and beverages.Microwave cooking, simmering, or stewing can actually heighten antioxidant levels.However, frying or grilling can decrease antioxidant levels. Related: Quick guide to using herbs and spices A dietitian’s tips to cooking with herbs Getting your spices in supplements Buyer beware if using supplements to boost your intake of spices. Since commercial supplements aren’t strictly regulated, you need to ensure that a brand is reputable and verified by a reputable third-party organization. Also be sure to talk to you doctor, to ensure correct dosage and form and to ensure the supplements won’t interact with any of your current medications. EatingWell content comes from a syndicated article distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC., © 2022 Meredith Corporation. EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com. Links to expert articles on the health benefits of spices and herbs Johns Hopkins Medicine: “5 Spices with Healthy Benefits” National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health: “Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices” Healthline: “10 Delicious Herbs and Spices with Powerful Health Benefits” U.S. Pharmacist: “Capsaicin: Risks and Benefits” Read More Seniors Guide Staff Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible. Related Resources The Importance of Hydration for Seniors Seniors Guide examines the critical and sometimes-overlooked issue of hydration for seniors. The natural aging process, medications, and dementia can ... 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