While these antioxidant-packed spices bring delicious depth and sensory nostalgia to holiday dishes, they also offer significant health-promoting compounds. The smells and flavors of spices during the holiday season can awaken our nostalgic senses. But powerhouses, such as cinnamon and cayenne, also offer significant health-promoting compounds.
“Spices are a great way of bumping up flavor in dishes, while reducing the need for extra salt, sugar, and fat,” says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The Superfoods Rx Diet. Here are five health boosting spices to include in your holiday dishes this season.
When added to a meal, a half teaspoon of this hot red pepper may boost feelings of fullness, according to a recent study. Capsaicin, the phytonutrient that gives cayenne its kick, can reduce excessive stomach acid production, lowering risk for ulcers, and improve blood vessel function to lower blood pressure.
GET MORE: Add cayenne to winter squash soups, hot cocoa, sautéed greens, scrambled eggs, and stews.
The mildly sweet inner bark of a Southeast Asian tree, cinnamon can improve insulin sensitivity, reducing type 2 diabetes risk. Its compounds also exert antioxidant and antibacterial activity, says Debra Boutin, RD, chair of the department of nutrition and exercise science at Bastyr University.
GET MORE: Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon into oatmeal, pancake batter, fruit crisps, and ground coffee.
These pungent dried flower buds are antioxidant overachievers. Of more than 1,100 foods tested for a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cloves are three times higher in antioxidants than the nearest competitor: dried oregano.
GET MORE: Add ground cloves to quick breads, smoothies, oatmeal, chili, roasted sweet potatoes, and French toast. A clove-studded onion spices up stock.
Fresh ginger contains components called gingerols that may lessen inflammation by protecting against free radical damage and suppressing pro-inflammatory compounds. “Studies show ginger also helps reduce nausea,” says Boutin.
GET MORE: Grate fresh ginger into marinades and stir-fries. Gently boil fresh ginger slices; then combine the liquid with lemon juice and honey for a warming immunity boost.
The seed of an apricot-like fruit cultivated in Southeast Asia and the West Indies, nutmeg contains myristicin, an oil with antioxidant and antibacterial properties that may suppress harmful cells. “Oils in nutmeg have been used to reduce symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, and stomach upset,” adds Boutin.
GET MORE: Use nutmeg in burgers, quiches, and hummus. Grate it into smoothies or whipped cream.
Article from November/December 2015 Living Healthy Everyday Magazine. Download your copy here.