5 Herbs & Spices for Better Gut Health
Author: Noelle Khan
A dash of brilliant yellow turmeric to a pot of curry. A sprinkle of oregano kneaded into a homemade focaccia. A serving of rich cacao powder mixed into a mug of warm milk. You know how the herbs and spices stacked along your spice rack can add some major flavor and depth to your favorite dishes and beverages. But, they’re not just ideal for livening up food. We rounded up a list of 5 of our go-to healthy herbs and spices, plus a few delicious ways to sneak them into mealtime.
5 Herbs & Spices for Better Gut Health
- Turmeric: Not only does this healing spice add a peppery bite and golden color to frothy lattes or filling vegetable curries, it also helps the body combat against chronic diseases like depression, fatigue and cancer. This long-standing cooking and medicinal spice in the ancient Indian medicine system of Ayurveda, has been used for centuries to treat a number of additional ailments like rheumatoid arthritis. The anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects of this bright yellow spice can be tied back to high amounts of curcumin – an antioxidant that lends turmeric its rich color. One study found the consumption of curcumin supplements to be much more effective in improving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis than oral NSAIDs. An earlier study that looked at the effects of curcumin supplements on major depressive disorder in sixty participants found the spice to reap the same improvements in patients as the antidepressant, Prozac.
- Ginger: Whether crystalized into candy, grated fresh into tea, or served pickled with sushi, this versatile root can be used in numerous ways to awaken your favorite desserts, beverages and dishes. The ground up spice stocked in your kitchen cabinet comes from dried up ginger root mostly produced in humid areas across China and India. Similar to turmeric, this antioxidant rich spice dates back thousands of years with traditional holistic medicine practices using it to treat numerous illnesses and symptoms like nausea. With high levels of powerful antioxidants surpassing that of pomegranate and berries, it’s no surprise then that ginger has proven successful in lowering “bad” cholesterol levels with one animal study finding high doses of ginger extract successful in reducing cholesterol among rats.
- Cacao: While sugar loaded milk chocolate bars might get a seriously bad rep, there’s no need to eliminate chocolate from your daily diet for good. In fact, daily consumption of unsweetened cacao powder might be key to lowering your insulin levels and keeping your heart in tip-top shape. You might be wondering why this spice is a *major* superfood when its counterpart – think bars loaded with nasty additives and preservatives, are often excluded from healthy diets. Raw cacao powder, which is extracted from cocoa butter, is rich in a number of dietary minerals like magnesium, copper and potassium that may reduce the risk of high blood pressure when part of a healthy diet. High blood pressure, or hypertension has proven to result in various health problems such as heart failure and heart attack if left untreated. A Swedish study conducted over the course of eight years found regular chocolate consumption among a population of over thirty-one thousand women to be effective in lower the risk of heart failure. The next time you reach for a healthy chocolate treat like our Almond Butter Dark Chocolate blondie, ditch the guilt and know that you’re doing your taste buds and heart a major favor.
- Oregano: This staple herb packs a serious punch when it comes to elevating the flavors of a classic tomato sauce or fresh pesto. Not only does oregano add an earthy flavor to sauces and marinades, it also fights against damaging free radicals. Research has found oregano, especially the oil variety, to be high in the antioxidants thymol and carvacrol. These two compounds are great for combating against diseases linked to chronic inflammation – a condition that arises when there are excess free radicals in the body. One animal study showed that a combined mixture of thyme and oregano essential oils used as an alternative treatment to colitis was successful in reducing damage to the inflamed colons of mice.
- Garlic: Being the base of all great stews, broths and sauces, there’s no doubt that garlic has become a staple ingredient in your kitchen. Whether its crushed, diced, minced, or grounded down to a powder, garlic in all its forms has a slew of health benefits that make the sometimes-bad breath totally worth it. You can owe garlic’s controversial odor to allicin – a compound released from whole garlic cloves when chopped up. If you suffer from sore muscles after a gym session you might want to consider increasing your intake of this powerful compound. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found the experimental group of athletes who received an allicin supplement to experience reduced muscle soreness after e