Spice Up Your Life – for Your Brain’s Sake
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If your spice collection is merely collecting dust, it may be time for you to reconsider your cooking habits.
The health benefits of spices have been getting a lot of attention lately. Until now, the belief that herbs and plants have medicinal properties was largely rooted in holistic medicine. While the jury is still out on whether specific herbs and spices are directly linked to disease prevention or health maintenance, interest in evidence-based, scientific research is growing. Scientists in India and other parts of Asia, particularly, are studying their traditional cuisines, which are typically high in spices, to seek out more definitive answers regarding their effects on health.
In particular, two spices are showing promise for brain health; so much so, that they have attracted the attention of researchers as well as the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH):
Curcumin:The NIH suggests that curcumin, the main ingredient in the bright-yellow spice turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that may slow down age-related brain degradation, including Alzheimer’s. Its antioxidant properties also have been linked to cancer prevention, although more research is needed to confirm this. Interest in turmeric’s health benefits is at an all-time high; the NIH has registered at least 13 active clinical trials involving the dietary use of the spice. Turmeric is a key component of South and Southeast Asian dishes.
Cinnamon:This fragrant and “warming” spice, derived from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree, is said to have anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition to currently having five clinical trials open on the study of cinnamon, the NIH recently awarded a two-year grant to further study if and how cinnamon affects multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the central nervous system. An earlier study suggested that sodium benzoate, which is produced when cinnamon is metabolized, may slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis by blocking pro-inflammatory molecules in brain cells.
As with any big changes in your lifestyle, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of adding these spices to your regular diet, especially if you’re considering supplements and/or are on prescribed medications.
Even though we don’t yet know from a scientific standpoint if and how these spices could support brain health, I do know one thing: Herbs and spices of all types not only pack a flavorful punch, they also help keep me from reaching for the salt shaker. And that’s definitely a smart health habit for everyone.
Mind your health,
Dr. Keith Black
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Video: "SPICE UP YOUR LIFE" - GRUPAL | GALA 9 | OT 2018
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