Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spice Up Your Food For Health

Having just written about turmeric and previously cinnamon, I was interested to see what other herbs and spices might have antibacterial, anti fungal, antiviral or antioxidant properties. I am sure that there will be many that I have missed. If your favourite is missing from my list please share it with us by leaving a comment.

"An herb is a friend of physicians and the praise of cooks." - Emperor Charlemange, 9th Century

Researchers recently discovered that the phenolic compounds in a study of 26 common spice extracts contributed significantly to their antioxidant capacity.
Other studies have shown the herbs and spices that were the best all round bacterial killers, that killed all of the 29 common food borne bacteria that they were tested with, were:
  • garlic
  • onion
  • allspice
  • oregano
Those that killed up to 80% of bacteria types tested were:
  • thyme
  • cinnamon
  • tarragon
  • cumin
Killing or inhibited up to 75% of bacteria types tested were:
  • hot peppers including chilies and capsicums
Others that tested as inhibiting 25% of bacteria types tested included:
  • ginger
  • anise seed
  • celery seed
  • juice of lemons and limes
  • black and white pepper
Other spices said to have antibacterial activity are:
  • cloves - used to stop bad breath.
  • mustard
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • turmeric

Nutmeg has, in animal studies, shown possible antidepressant possibilities. It also is active against Helicobacter pylori and E. coli. Be careful in using nutmeg because 1 to 2 ounces of nutmeg has been known to cause delirium and toxicity.
Peppermint, as well as its antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties, is said to show potential for anti tumor and anti allergenic actions. It is also known for its effect on relieving gas, and its analgesic and anesthetic effects in the central and peripheral nervous system.
Basil is used in some countries to reduce plasma cholesterol. Basil extract has been shown to contain antioxidant substances. Cloves has the highest antioxidant activity followed by cinnamon, pepper, ginger, garlic, mint and onion.

This is not intended to be a through coverage of all of the properties and uses of these herbs and spices, but just an overview to show the wonderful resources available to us. Using a greater variety of herbs and spices in our cooking could certainly contribute to our health and well being. Adding herbs to a salad dressing for example can increase the antioxidant capacity of the salad by 150% to 200%.

Have fun, experiment with the added flavour of herbs and spices. Even add them to canned or already prepared foods as they will add a lift to the taste.

Enjoy and be in good health


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