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5 Spices I Can’t Live Without

Sharon Palmer

Bold dishes featuring a variety of spices are one of today’s hottest culinary trends. And it’s a wonderful thing; spices have been appreciated for thousands of years as natural preservatives, medicines, and flavor enhancers. Spices contain concentrated sources of antioxidants, which helps protect your body against the damaging effects of free radicals that can lead to chronic disease. Research is beginning to document that spices can offer a range of health benefits, including anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. And scientists are exploring a number of possible applications for spices, such as protection of the brain.

I’m a big advocate for eating more pungent, aromatic, flavorful spices (and herbs) in your daily diet. Here’s a peek at five spices I just can’t live without!

1. Turmeric. Regarded as the “queen of spices,” turmeric is one of the most exciting spices on the nutrition science front. Curcumin, a powerful compound in turmeric, has been found to have anti-inflammatory activities that may help protect against a wide range of diseases, including arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. While this spice is most widely known for giving curry powder its warm, golden tones, it can help season a number of dishes, such as salads, soups, and stews.

Try my recipe for Yellow Rice with Raisins.

2. Cinnamon. This old-fashioned seasoning creates the heavenly aroma of grandma’s famous apple pie baking in the oven. But it’s more than just a sweet smell and taste. Cinnamon’s active ingredients have been studied for their antioxidant capacity, antimicrobial effects, and most recently its role in insulin activity. Studies show that cinnamon may help stabilize glucose levels. So, go ahead! Dip into cinnamon to flavor fruits, coffee, cereals, and even ethnic savory stews.

Try my recipe for a Cinnamon Caramel Apple Bowl.

3. Pepper. Cayenne pepper, which gets its name from the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, is a concentrated source of capsaicin, the powerful phytochemical that gives chiles their heat. Research suggests capsaicin has chemopreventative activity. Don’t be afraid to give into the heat of pepper, including smoked paprika, red chili pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Try my recipe for New Orleans Red Beans and Rice.

4. Garlic. Allicin, a naturally occurring antioxidant in garlic may help improve heart health. Research suggests garlic can lower blood pressure, as well as cholesterol. Add garlic to sautéed vegetables, salad dressing, vinaigrettes, soups, and side-dishes.

Try my recipe for Roasted Garlic.

5. Clove. Famous for its sweet, nutty aroma, this spice is more than meets the nose. Clove contains eugenol, an active compound that studies have linked with protection from environmental pollutants, certain forms of cancer, and joint inflammation. In addition, clove has antibacterial and mild pain relief effects. Pinch clove into baked goods, fruit desserts, cereals, and even savory couscous and stew.

Try my recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Dates, Figs, and Pistachios.

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