The health benefits of spices are too extensive to list, since, between all of the spices available in the world, they encompass almost every element of health, and have been shown to protect your body in some way. The most important ways that they protect the body include their ability to fight infection, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, prevent cancer, improve heart health, induce sweating, keep skin healthy, regulate the metabolism, detoxify the body, lose weight, increase appetite, strengthen bones, reduce stress, increase digestion, protect against dozens of dangerous diseases, cure colds, protect oral health, contribute to a healthy diet, balance the hormones in our body, and countless other important benefits! Spices are monumentally important and tremendously delicious, so let’s learn a bit more about them.
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What are Spices?
Spices are defined as the dried form of various seeds, roots, fruits, barks, and vegetables across the world. Their main use is to add color or flavor to food, as well as to help it remain preserved and good to eat. Spices are found everywhere in the world and are form an essential part of the culinary practices of certain cultures. They are different from herbs because they are typically made from leafy, green plants, unlike spices. There are hundreds of spices around the world, but probably 50-60 are commonly used in different countries. Their original use was probably as a flavoring agent which then demonstrated antimicrobial properties by keeping the food fresh for longer durations and increasing the health of those who ate the spices regularly.
Spice trade was a huge part of history, because when spices were discovered, and their mobility and value was established, they were some of the highest in-demand products traded between nations. In certain parts of the world, salt was more valuable than gold for the same reason. Many traditional styles of medicine also hinged on the use of spices and so they were always in high demand. China, India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa made up the majority of the spice trade, but the tradition and importance of spices have always been a part of our global history.
One of the best things about spices is that when prepared and dried properly, they can last almost forever, provided they don’t get wet or contaminated. Also, since they are so low in calories, being ground up in tiny forms, there is no danger of any side effects. In fact, they do contain proteins and other organic compounds that are necessary in trace amounts in order to balance much of the body’s behavior. Therefore, spices deliver an important punch for overall health.
Health Benefits of Spices
Let’s take a look at the exciting benefits that many of the world’s most popular spices can contribute to our overall health!
Allspice is a soothing, anti-inflammatory, and carminative spice. It has been positively linked to reducing cancer, improving oral health, stimulating digestion, facilitating bone growth, boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and acting as an analgesic or anesthetic substance.
This powerful spice has antioxidant capabilities, as well as a stomachic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, antiseptic, digestive, expectorant, and stimulant properties. It is a great source of vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, copper, and manganese, and helps to increase the circulation and oxygenation of body parts while boosting the immune system and improving the quality of your skin.
Bay leaf is a very popular spice throughout the world and is praised for its ability to prevent cancer, boost immunity, reduce neural tube defects, protect oral health, improve health and beauty of your hair and skin, improve nervous system function, regulate body metabolism, and prevent blood-related conditions like anemia.
Perhaps one of the most common spices in the world, black pepper is important due to its ability to reduce inflammation and excess gas, optimize gastrointestinal action, regulate enzymatic reactions, control heart rate and blood pressure, and prevent cancer due to its antioxidant capabilities.
Capers are very low in calories but packed with phytonutrients, antioxidant compounds, and vitamins. They also prevent cancer, reduce illness, boost immunity, strengthen blood vessels, reduce clotting, lower cholesterol levels, increase circulation, and provide a huge wealth of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin K, niacin, riboflavin, iron, and copper.
Caraway seeds can improve digestion, reduce constipation, lower blood cholesterol, reduce excess gas, neutralize free radicals, and prevent various diseases like cancer. They also regulate blood pressure, eliminate atherosclerosis, and provide a healthy source of thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium.
The health benefits of cardamom include its ability to aid digestion, reduce spasms, lower blood pressure, increase the metabolism, increase circulation, and increase frequency and volume of urination. It also gives the body many of its necessary vitamins and minerals, including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, iron, manganese, and potassium. Its essential volatile oils are also very effective in healing various conditions.
Hot pepper might be too much for some people to handle, but it is a very healthy thing to eat! It has the ability to clear the sinuses, increase urination, eliminate toxins from the body, help manage diabetes, prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, optimize the metabolism, regulate hormonal activity, and perhaps most importantly, fight against all foreign invaders, toxins, and potential infections, due to its powerful antioxidant properties!
Cinnamon is a beloved spice around the world that is praised for its ability to reduce inflammation, eliminate pain, manage diabetes, eliminate infections, reduce excess gas, improve heart health, increase cognitive function, build strong bones, prevent cancer, and increase the health of the eyes and skin!
Cloves have a very strong taste and are antioxidant, antiseptic, anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and rubefacient in nature. They also contain a number of valuable organic compounds and volatile oils that are good at protecting against cancer, managing heart rate, balancing bodily fluids, improving digestion, increasing oral health, eliminate premature aging, and strengthen the membranes throughout the body.
Cumin seeds are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and carminative by nature. They improve digestion, increase sperm count, build strong bones, improve eyesight, prevent macular degeneration, manage heart rate, lower blood pressure, act as a co-factor in many enzymatic reactions, increase red blood cell count, and prevent various types of cancer.
Fennel has long been known for its ability to regulate bowel movements, prevent cancer, reduce premature aging through antioxidant activity, increase enzymatic activity, and act as a great source of many vitamins and minerals, including copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium as well as organic compounds and acids like pinene, myrcene, fenchone, chavicol, cineole, anethole, limonene, and anisic aldehyde.
Although not popular globally, fenugreek seeds are a very popular and effective spice in certain Asian cultures, and they have the ability to improve digestion and reduce constipation, lower blood cholesterol levels, regulate insulin levels, manage fluid levels in the body, and add a powerful vitamin and mineral boost which includes copper, iron, potassium, and calcium, as well as vitamins like vitamin B6, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Although many people only think of horseradish as a spread or a topping, it is actually a spice as well, and quite a powerful one! Horseradish has the ability to increase urination, reduce inflammation, soothe the nerves, prevent cancer, stimulate healthy digestion, boost the immune system, and prevent cancer due to its many antioxidant compounds. Furthermore, horseradish increases the red blood cell count in the body and helps to control the heart rate and blood pressure.
This is a slightly lesser known spice, but a good one to keep on your spice rack if you can! It has the ability to boost the immune system, build strong bones, reduce depression, increase sexual libido, stimulate digestion, reduce excess gas, reduce insomnia, keep the skin healthy, boost hair health, and increase the circulation to all parts of the body.
Mustard seeds are packed with organic compounds and volatile oils that can boost your overall health. They are also a wonderful source of B-complex vitamins, which are essential for normal functioning of your organ systems. It can also reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels, improve the strength and health of your teeth, boost circulation, build strong bones, prevent cancer, and reduce signs of premature aging.
Nutmeg is a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals necessary for human health. It can fight fungal infections, work as an aphrodisiac, improve digestion, reduce excess gas, improve hair and skin health, prevent macular degeneration, and reduce the chances of developing various forms of cancer.
This powerful spice includes many carotenoids and boosts immune system health in a big way. Saffron also fights infections in wounds, elevates mood, induces sleep, stimulates red blood cell formation, eliminates spasms, modulates hormonal activity, and can reduce blood pressure through the vasodilating properties of potassium found in saffron.
This South Asian spice is very popular because it has the ability to improve blood vessels and artery strength, regulate digestion and excretion in a healthy way, prevent cancer, lower blood cholesterol, build strong bones, increase blood circulation and oxygenation, regulate enzymatic activity in the body, and improve the mucous membranes throughout the body as well.
Vanilla beans contain a wide array of chemical compounds and volatile oils, which all have their own health benefits. However, the studies done on vanilla beans have shown to control blood pressure, reduce heart rate, soothe nerves, regulate the body metabolism, induce sleep, and build strong bones. Some people also say that it is an aphrodisiac, although modern studies have not supported this claim.
Click on any of the links above to explore a more detailed explanation of that particular spice and its positive impact on your health!
These are only the major spices used frequently around the world. There are many more options as well, particularly in your local area where you can often find spices specific to your country or region. So, be brave and spice up your life. You’ll be surprised by the number of wonderful health benefits you find!