Spice it up: Incorporate herbs into a healthy diet
Often overlooked, yet an important component of nutrition, herbs and spices pack a big punch from a small package.
They're generally used to flavor food, but herbs and spices have many health benefits in addition to being taste enhancers.
Herbs and spices have been used for centuries as medicine to treat or alleviate symptoms of disease, so don't underestimate their potency. Many have either anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-bacterial, or antioxidant effects when consumed.
This makes them ideal for helping to fight the signs of aging, cell deformities, infections, and even the common cold.
The following five herbs/spices are fairly common and easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.
This orange-colored root contains curcumin, a substance shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects. It has been used to help treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, allergies, and asthma.
Studies have shown that it's also a strong antioxidant in the fight against free radical damage and the destruction of healthy cells. Add a pinch of turmeric to your scrambled eggs or sprinkle it on a salad for a peppery kick.
The benefits of cinnamon go far beyond its wonderful smell. Cinnamon has been shown to help regulate natural blood sugar levels and assist in the reduction of LDL cholesterol levels.
Research has also shown that it can help reduce chronic inflammation of the nervous system which could help to alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. A dash of cinnamon tastes great in your morning coffee or added to a protein shake.
This root is great in assisting proper digestion and boosting the immune system. Ginger can improve the absorption of nutrients by stimulating the pancreas to secrete key enzymes. It's also effective in alleviating an upset stomach.
Ginger has been used as a natural treatment for colds and flu and to break up mucous in the lungs.
Slice a piece of ginger root and add it to your tea while it's brewing for a tangy kick. Or add a piece of ginger root to your smoothie and blend well.
As a natural anti-inflammatory, rosemary may help with migraines, arthritis, and gout. It is also an immune booster and can aid in digestion.
In addition, it contains the phytochemical carnosol, which studies show is a strong anti-carcinogenic compound that targets pathways associated with inflammation and cancer.
Sprinkle some rosemary into your favorite potato dish or add fresh minced rosemary to a homemade marinade for chicken or salmon.
Sage is antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-bacterial, so it can be used as an antiseptic to alleviate symptoms associated with sore throat, mouth sores, or cough.
Sage has also been used to sharpen the mind and studies show it can even combat memory loss. Add a few fresh leaves to water and brew into a tea or sprinkle dried leaves into a stir fry dish.
So be sure to add more herbs and spices to your diet to support your health while making your food anything but boring.
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• Joshua Steckler is the owner of Push Fitness, a personal training studio located in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning, and nutrition. Contact him at PushFitnessTraining.com.