Spices aren’t just a way to add some flavor to your favorite dishes or drinks; they pose some seriously good heart health benefits. And this is nothing new! People have been using plants, herbs and spices for thousands of years for the flavor—and medicinal—qualities they offer. In fact, many pharmaceutical drugs are derived from nature.
Improve Circulation with Cayenne
This popular spice gets its kick from its active ingredient, capsaicin, which has been shown to aid weight loss and circulation. Research involving hamsters also demonstrated that capsaicin helped to combat bad cholesterol levels and may have decreased the amount of plaque found in their arteries. Try using it to spice up soups, as an ingredient in a meat, fish or poultry rub or even add it to some tea (if you can stand the heat).
Regulate Blood Sugar with Cinnamon
A popular and flavorful spice, cinnamon also touts some great health perks. Topping the list is its antioxidant properties, which help protect cells from the damage and destruction free radicals cause. Also, other research has shown cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar and has decreased blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes. Add this sweet spice to oatmeal, roasted veggies, sautéed greens or tea.
Prevent Heart Disease with Garlic
Popular for thousands of years, garlic is a top herb for heart health. Its benefits include lowering blood pressure and decreasing the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis), and it could help prevent heart attack or stroke by acting as a blood thinner. Garlic is an amazing additional to many recipes, try with meats, fish, poultry, soups, dressings, marinades, veggies, salads, stews and more.
Lower Cholesterol with Ginger
Ginger is known to help calm and treat nausea, but it may also help combat heart disease. Some preliminary studies show that ginger could lower cholesterol and prevent blood clots. Be wary of high doses of ginger, Medline Plus (a website of the National Institutes of Health) notes that large quantities could worsen heart conditions. If you have a heart condition, ask your doctor if he or she recommends ginger. Once you’re sure it’s safe, keep this tummy-friendly root in mind for smoothies, teas, soups and marinades.
Fight High Triglyceride Levels with Oregano
A 2011 study by Penn State University found that oregano, among other spices like cinnamon and paprika, could lower your triglyceride (a type of fat found in the blood) levels. This pungent herb also offers a boost of antioxidants and helps to ward off bacteria. Dried oregano is great to add to pasta sauce or pizza, and can be used in marinades, dressings or atop veggies.
Decrease Inflammation with Turmeric
A popular spice in Indian dishes, turmeric is touted for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help protect you from various diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more. A 2012 report in the American Journal of Cardiology offered promising information that turmeric could help prevent heart attacks in patients who recently experienced a bypass surgery. This spice is great in curry dishes, salad dressings or sprinkled on veggies. You can also make a tea by adding a quarter teaspoon to a cup of boiled water; squeeze in some honey or lemon to taste.