Antioxidant-Rich Herbs and Spices Add More Than a Flavor Boost
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, discusses the latest hot topics in the field of diet, nutrition, and cancer every week in a column called HealthTalk published by The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). On January 23, 2012, Karen shared some encouraging information about the health benefits of cooking with spices and herbs.
Q: Can cooking with more herbs and spices really add a significant amount of antioxidants to food?
A: Yes. Research has shown for some time that herbs and spices are concentrated sources of natural compounds that are strong antioxidants.
Now a small preliminary study shows that blood antioxidant levels increased after people ate a meal with large amounts of added herbs and spices. This study used a mixture of rosemary, oregano, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, garlic, paprika and turmeric.
Try our recipe for Jasmine Rice with Turmeric and Lime.
These herbs and spices are among those with the most research documenting the content of their protective compounds. The amount of herbs and spices added up to more than six teaspoons per person, which is substantially more than most of us typically use in cooking, but it did not reduce enjoyment of the meal’s flavor.
And as an additional benefit, blood triglycerides and insulin increased less following the meal with herbs and spices than following the same meal without these flavorings. Blood sugar elevations following the meal were no different with or without spices, but the men in this study were healthy. There is some evidence that herbs and spices might increase insulin effectiveness, so future research can test whether this brings benefits for people with problems controlling blood sugar.
Other research shows that cooking meat with even a small amount of rosemary or turmeric can reduce formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are linked to colon cancer, and cooking with a spice blend can reduce formation in meat of a compound believed to damage blood vessel walls and DNA.
Antioxidant content of some fresh herbs may decrease when they are dried, but analysis shows that dried herbs generally remain excellent source of antioxidant compounds.
Shop our wide selection of organic spices and herbs, from whole Ceylon cinnamon sticks to aromatic spice blends that will enliven your cooking.
Spice things up for your health!