It is an open secret that herbs and spices play a major role in maintain a healthy life style. Herbs and spices have been part of our lives from time immemorial and they still play major role in everyday lives, just that many are not too familiar with the amazing health benefits one can enjoy for them
Apart from using a wide range of these herbs and spices in cooking, they also have medicinal benefit that can be used as medications by consuming as teas or topically.
Scientists estimate that there are more than 5,000 phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant chemicals). These phytochemicals not only protect plants from pathogens and cell damage, but they also help us when we ingest the plant. Herbs and spices contain high levels of these phytochemicals which are powerful antioxidants that improve digestion, reduce inflammation, support the immune system, and are antimicrobial. Embracing a cuisine rich in spices, as well as fruits and vegetables, is not only much more flavorful, but also health–promoting and disease–preventive. Our ancestors have known this for thousands of years. We only need to look at cookbooks from other cultures around the world to see how they’ve used the local herbs and spices in their food.
More than 2000 years ago, the Hippocratic School of medicine proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine.” Fortunately, this sage advice is coming back these days as more and more people are demanding local, organic, nutrient-rich food. Plant-based whole foods are gaining in popularity. Adding herbs and spices to our food, not only adds more flavour, but adds concentrated nutrients for our health and well-being. Another added benefit is that when you use herbs and spices, you tend to use less salt!
Many of the chronic diseases today start in the gut with poor digestion. Digestive spices like ginger, coriander, cumin, fennel, and cardamom should be added to everyone’s daily diet. Clove, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and cumin are now being studied as additives to prevent spoiling in packages because of their high levels of antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Many herbs and spices have been shown to fight cravings and boost fat burning and weight loss.
Let’s take a look at some of these incredible gifts of nature
Ginger is a spice made from the rhizome of the flowering ginger plant, Zingiber officinale.
Often used in folk medicine as a natural remedy for a wide variety of ailments, some research indicates that ginger could aid weight loss as well.
One review of 14 human studies showed that supplementing with ginger significantly decreased both body weight and belly fat.
Another review of 27 human, animal and test-tube studies also concluded that ginger may help lower weight by increasing metabolism and fat burning while simultaneously decreasing fat absorption and appetite
Turmeric is a spice revered for its flavor, vibrant color and potent medicinal properties.
Most of its health benefits are attributed to the presence of curcumin, a chemical that has been studied extensively for its effects on everything from inflammation to weight loss.
One study in 44 overweight people showed that taking curcumin twice daily for one month was effective in enhancing fat loss, decreasing belly fat and increasing weight loss by up to 5%.
Similarly, an animal study found that supplementing mice with curcumin for 12 weeks reduced body weight and body fat by blocking the synthesis of fat. However, keep in mind that these studies use a concentrated amount of curcumin, far greater than the amount present in a typical dose of turmeric.
Though technically a vegetable, garlic is used widely in kitchens as an herb or spice. Coming from an Italian and Ukrainian background, garlic has been used in my family in almost every single dish. And of course, we always use a lot of it.
Garlic has been used for many generations for medicinal purposes as an anti-inflammatory, and also a natural antibiotic. With its strong aroma and versatility, it too has been proven to burn fat.
It is a natural anti-inflammatory, rids respiratory illnesses, detoxifies your body to eliminate toxins, keeps skin looking young, reduces cholesterol, and aids in digestion.
Want to add a little more garlic to your meals? Try putting a couple cloves into your green smoothie. You’ll see results.
Cayenne Pepper is a spice that helps with arthritis, ulcers, colds and flu. Cayenne Pepper will kick your immune system into gear while fighting off germs.
Once again, it too contains capsaicin–an aspirin-like compound that thins the blood to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. It helps to burn calories while curbing your appetite at the same time, suppresses hunger, lowers blood pressure, relieves pain, and fights cancer. Just a little bit of cayenne pepper can go a long way, and make any dish the perfect amount of hot and spicy. Add cayenne Pepper to chicken, tacos, a delicious salsa, or even a scintillating Mexican-style dessert.
Black Pepper is a common household spice derived from the dried fruit of Piper nigrum, a flowering vine native to India.
It contains a powerful compound called piperine, which supplies both its pungent flavor and potential weight-lowering effects.
One study found that supplementing with piperine helped reduce body weight in rats on a high-fat diet, even with no changes in food intake A test-tube study also showed that piperine effectively inhibited fat cell formation.
Unfortunately, current research is still limited to test-tube and animal studies.
Further studies are needed to determine how piperine and black pepper may influence weight loss in humans.
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice made from the inner bark of trees in the Cinnamomum genus.
It’s rich in antioxidants and offers several health benefits. Some studies have even found that cinnamon could increase weight loss.
It’s especially effective in stabilizing blood sugar, which may help reduce appetite and hunger.
Studies show that a specific compound found in cinnamon can mimic the effects of insulin, helping transport sugar from the bloodstream to your cells to be used as fuel.
Cinnamon may also decrease levels of certain digestive enzymes to slow the breakdown of carbohydrates.
While these effects could potentially decrease appetite and lead to weight loss, more research is needed to study the effects of cinnamon directly on weight.
Cardamom is a highly prized spice, made from the seeds of a plant in the ginger family. It’s used worldwide in both cooking and baking but may also support weight loss.
One animal study found that cardamom powder helped reduce belly fat in rats on a high-fat, high-carb diet. Similarly, another animal study showed that black cardamom in particular was effective in reducing both belly fat and total body fat in rats on a high-fat diet.
Unfortunately, most research on cardamom’s weight loss potential is limited to animal studies. Cardamom’s influence on weight loss in humans has yet to be investigated.
Using Herbs and Spices Safely
When used as a seasoning for foods, the aforementioned herbs and spices can provide a burst of health benefits with minimal risk of side effects.
Just don’t go overboard. Stick to no more than one tablespoon (14 grams) per day and be sure to pair them with nutrient-rich whole foods to help boost weight loss even more.
If you take herbs in supplement form, it’s important to stick to the recommended dosage on the package to prevent adverse effects. But it is strongly advised to go for natural organic herbs and spices in its raw state, with that you will be sure you have the exact herb or spice.
Additionally, if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications, it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.
If you experience any negative side effects or food allergy symptoms, discontinue use immediately and talk to a trusted healthcare practitioner.
At the end of the day, it is good to know that besides adding a punch of flavour to your favourite foods, many herbs and spices have been shown to increase metabolism, enhance fat burning and promote feelings of fullness.
Diversifying your spice cabinet is a simple and easy way to increase weight loss with minimal effort.
Be sure to combine these herbs with a well-rounded, balance diet and a healthy lifestyle to get the best out of them.