Natural Health

6 Spices With Hidden Health Benefits

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy some of your favorite spices. (Pumpkin spice latté, anyone?) And guess what? Some of those same seasonings can do double-duty, taming everything from aches and pains to high cholesterol and hypertension — as well as tasting great. Keep reading to find out how to harness the power of spices to stay healthy!

Boost immunity with garlic bread.

Savoring garlicky pasta or a crusty slice of garlic bread is a delicious way to stay healthy heading into cold and flu season. Jazzing up meals with just a clove a day (raw or cooked) cuts your risk of falling ill by 53 percent. Plus it speeds your recovery by two days if you’re already under the weather, according to a study in the Journal of Immunology Research. Credit garlic’s sulfur compounds, which amp up the production of virus-killing antibodies by as much as 40 percent.

Lower cholesterol with ginger tea.

If you’re one of the 102 million Americans with elevated cholesterol, there’s an easy way to help bring your numbers down: Savor a cup of ginger tea. Regularly enjoying this warming spice can drop levels of triglycerides, or harmful blood fat, by as much as 38 points and knock up to 12 points off total cholesterol, a study in Phytomedicine found. Credit gingerol, an anti-inflammatory compound that gives the spice its zing, which helps flush blood fats out of your body before they build up in your arteries.

Dodge hypertension with cinnamon.

There’s a reason blood pressure tends to tick up as the years pass. Over time, our arteries become stiffer and less flexible, which can make the heart work a little bit harder. Luckily, it’s easy to keep levels low or bring them down by sprinkling cinnamon over a bowl of oatmeal or into a smoothie, or by adding extra to your freshly baked apple pie. A study in Nutrition found eating about one-half to one teaspoon a day lowers your systolic (top number) blood pressure by up to six points and your diastolic (bottom) blood pressure by nearly three points in 12 weeks. Researchers credit the BP-lowering effect with cinnamon’s ability to tame inflammation and relax stiff blood vessels.

Quiet aches with a mustard bath.

As the weather starts to cool, 55 percent of us will notice an uptick in joint and muscle pain. To the rescue: a mustard-powder soak. Scientists say adding the spice to your next bath eases aches in 20 minutes. Mustard’s phenolic compounds boost circulation, relax tense muscles and help draw pain-triggering toxins out of the body. Just mix a quarter cup of mustard powder, two cups of Epsom salts, and a quarter cup of baking soda in a jar, then swirl one-fourth cup of the mixture into a warm bath.

Melt belly fat fast with this take-out favorite.

Midsection pudge that won’t budge? Blame hormone fluxes and metabolism slowdowns that come with age. Luckily, adding turmeric, the spice in curry dishes, to your daily diet can do wonders for your waistline. It contains a compound called curcumin, which a study in Drug Research reveals helps folks lose more than six times as much body fat and more than seven times as much belly fat over eight weeks than those who don’t eat the spice. Stir a teaspoon into soups and sauces daily to see results.

Soothe GI upset with cardamom.

As the weather cools, light summer salads are being replaced with heartier fall favorites like savory stews and creamy mac and cheese, and our digestive system needs time to adjust. To prevent stomach pain, chew on three cardamom pods after meals. The mildly spicy scent helps your body churn out more digestive enzymes and calms painful intestinal spasms, Canadian scientists say, cutting your risk of indigestion by 55 percent.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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