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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

Best Spices for Your Health

Try these new spices to make your meals taste amazing -- and boost your health.

New research finds that the antioxidants and other beneficial chemicals in certain herbs and spices can help prevent everything from gum disease to cancer. And, of course, they make your food taste better too. Try adding one of the following super seasonings to your cooking tonight!

Ginger: Prevents Gum Disease
Thanks to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, this root has been used for thousands of years as an herbal medicine. Now, Korean researchers have discovered that the root’s active compounds (gingerols) kill several types of bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Still, don’t stop brushing and flossing!
Add it to:
Greens, stir-fries and other dishes. Use it fresh.

Turmeric: Curbs Colon Cancer
Curcumin, the active compound in this yellow spice, can help shrink precancerous lesions known as colon polyps, according to a study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Researchers found that the average number of polyps dropped by more than 60 percent; those that remained shrank by more than 50 percent.
Add it to: Curries and whole-grain dishes.

Cinnamon: Lowers Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
In a recent German study, this sweet spice decreased diabetics’ blood sugar by 10 percent. Meanwhile, another USDA study of diabetics found that cinnamon lowered triglycerides by up to 30 percent and lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol by up to 27 percent. And according to researchers, you don’t have to be diabetic to enjoy cinnamon’s benefits.
Add it to: Cereal, yogurt, baked goods and more.

Rosemary: Reduces Carcinogens
Cooking meat at high temperatures creates toxins that have been linked to cancer. But a recent study in the Journal of Food Science found that marinating meats in a mixture that contains rosemary slashed carcinogens by as much as 90 percent. The key is this: The more rosemary you add, the lower the levels.
Add it to: Marinades for beef, chicken and fish. (Try this recipe.) Vegetables don’t create carcinogens while cooking.

Oregano: Boosts Overall Wellness
If you like Italian food, you probably like oregano. That’s a good thing because a recent University of Oslo study has found that 1/2 teaspoon of the dried herb contains as big a dose of disease-fighting antioxidants as half a sweet potato.
Add it to:
Whole-grain pastas, rice dishes, vegetables and more.

About the Author
Nancy Kalish
is the managing editor of Completely You. She is a certified health coach, and an editor and writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has covered health, nutrition and oral health for Prevention, Health, SELF, Real Simple, The New York Times and more.

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