Spice it up: Spices and herbs may improve heart health

A heart shape made of spices

Protect your heart by flavoring food? It’s not too delicious to be true. A 2014 report from Nutrition Today cites several studies exploring the health benefits of common herbs and spices most likely already in your kitchen. Spices and herbs not only add calorie- and sodium-free flavor to recipes, but pack potent antioxidants that may improve risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

Effects of high-antioxidant spices

In one small study, researchers tested the effect of a high-antioxidant spice blend on post-meal measures of metabolism and antioxidant capacity. Six healthy, overweight men were fed a 1,200 calorie meal on two separate occasions. The control meal consisted of a coconut chicken and white rice dish, cheese bread, and a dessert biscuit.

A variety of colorful spices in bowls
Picture: A colorful variety! Spices for your heart health

For the test meal, researchers added a high dose of spices to the same items to create chicken curry, Italian herb cheese bread, and cinnamon biscuit. After each meal researchers analyzed participant blood samples. Researchers found the addition of spices resulted in 21% lower insulin levels, 31% lower triglyceride levels, and 13% higher antioxidant levels compared with levels after the control meal. Though the dose was high, spices used included black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, ginger, oregano, paprika, rosemary, and turmeric, all common flavorings likely stashed on your spice rack.

Use spices and herbs – it’s easy

More research is needed before any definite conclusions can be drawn, but the research suggests common spices and herbs might reduce inflammation and improve blood factors linked with heart disease. Not only do spices and herbs pack heart-promoting power, they’re relatively common and affordable, and offer bold flavor without adding calories. Sprinkle cinnamon into oatmeal, grind fresh pepper onto salads, and use oregano or rosemary to flavor poultry and fish.

A man is seasoning a salad with pepper
Picture: Grinding some pepper on your salad is a good idea

 

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