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Spice It Up! Boosting Your Health with Spices and Herbs (Part 1)
October 19, 2009
I just finished writing an article on dietary supplements and diabetes, and it got me thinking about how certain spices and herbs (including those that we frequently use in cooking) can play a role in our health.
I never really gave much thought to the containers of ginger, cinnamon, or basil that are ingredients in some of my recipes. I’d often counsel patients to use various spices and herbs to flavor foods while cutting back on calories, fat, and sodium. But using the seasonings lurking in your cupboard may do a whole lot more than just make your food tasty.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a spice as the following:
And this is how it defines an herb:
Spices tend to originate from tropical regions and usually have a stronger flavor than herbs. The use of spices in the U.S. has grown over the years. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) keeps tabs on spices and herbs produced in the U.S., and according to its estimates, spice and herb consumption increased from 1.2 to 3.3 pounds per person per year from 1966 to 2006. We Americans do like our food “spicy” — one study showed that Americans use 3.9 spices, on average, per recipe; by comparison, Norwegians use just 1.6.
Using spices and herbs for health and medicinal purposes is nothing new. The ancient Egyptians used a variety of spices, including coriander, fennel, cumin, and garlic. The ancient Greeks and Romans used hundreds of herbs and spices, as documented by Hippocrates. Of course, back in ancient times, there were no medicines like the ones we have today. But as the saying goes, what goes around comes around — meaning that today, scientists are taking a closer look at what we use to season our food, and learning that those little jars and pots of herbs may actually have health and healing properties.
How to Add More Cinnamon to Your Diet
How do you use cinnamon?
More spices next week!
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