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Certain Spices Are Both Delicious AND Healthy

Spice up your diet with these herbs, roots, and plants to benefit your health as much as your taste buds:

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne is a highly therapeutic substance that helps relieve aches and soreness. The heat factor in cayenne is called capsaicin, an active ingredient in some over-the-counter pain relieving creams. It has also been known to help fight prostate cancer and ulcers, as well as improve circulation and hearth health. Try adding a dash or two of cayenne to lemon tea in the morning, a salad at lunch, or cooked vegetables and meats at night.


Fennel

The fennel plant is an excellent source of Vitamin C, which helps promote a strong immune system and is an optimal source of iron and dietary fiber, which help to keep your metabolism and dietary tract running smoothly. This peppery plant is also a natural appetite suppressant, and the seeds can be used as a skin exfoliant. The highest nutritional value comes from consuming fennel leaves raw in salads. Fennel can also be used in stir fry and fish recipes or steamed with other greens.


Garlic

Love garlic or hate it, you can't deny that it's good for you. Garlic has anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral effects, and some studies show that it can stop blood clots from forming in your arteries. It's also an easy spice to add into your diet. Try it in pasta sauce, on pizza, roasted with other vegetables, or finely chopped in homemade spreads.


Ginger

This knobby looking tree root is excellent for treating gas and bloating, sore throats, colds, arthritis and motion sickness. Whether it is grated, sliced, sugared or eaten like candy, ginger is a staple in many baked goods and Asian dishes and can also be consumed as a tea, which can help ease an upset stomach.


Turmeric

This bright yellow spice contains the compound curcumin. In 2012, a study examined one perk of curcumin. While not a substitute for medication, researchers recognized that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may contribute to as much as 65 percent lower chance of heart attack among bypass patients. Turmeric can be added in pinches to a variety of foods including meats and salads. It is also a great base for curries and sauces.

While science has yet to show that any herb or spice cures disease, there's compelling evidence that several may help manage some chronic conditions (though it's always smart to talk with your doctor). And of course, seasoning your dishes with spices allows you to use less of other ingredients linked with health problems, such as salt, added sugars and sources of saturated fat. What's not to love?

This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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