Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spice Up Your Life to Beat Inflammation and Boost Heart Health

Certain spices aren't for the faint of heart, that's for sure. But whether you love them or hate them, the hotter or more intensely flavoured a spice may be, the better it tends to be for your health. For example, we know that cayenne pepper, among other spices, is said to improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation, but lately, there's been plenty of talk about how amazing turmeric is for our health.

According to researchers from Penn state, consuming turmeric in a high-fat meal can help lower a person's blood triglyceride response (the amount of fat that is absorbed into the bloodstream) by up to 30%. Normally, when a person eats a high-fat meal without adding any spice, much of the fat is absorbed into their bloodstream, causing their blood triglycerides to spike. If it happens too frequently, this can result in heart disease and other cardiovascular damage.

When participants in the above study consumed a meal spiked with 2 tbsp of spices, including rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika - all spices that are known to contain antioxidants - their blood antioxidant levels increased by 13% while their insulin response decreased by 20%, compared to those who ate the same meal without those spices.

In addition, it has recently been found that the antioxidant in turmeric which gives it it's distinctive yellow shade, called curcumin, may be helpful in reducing painful joint inflammation such as tendinitis and arthritis. The researchers have made it clear that turmeric won't cure these conditions, but there is something about curcumin that has been shown to reduce inflammation. In the future, we may see new medications or treatments derived from turmeric that will be far more effective than simply chowing down on the spice.

In the meantime, unless they upset your stomach, there's no harm in spicing up your diet just a little and boosting the antioxidant levels in your body. They may do you more good than we currently understand.