The Benefits of Spices: How Cooking with Spices Can Transform Your Health

A common myth I love to bash is that improving your health has to be expensive or complicated. 

It can be – if you fall victim to all that trendy, superficial wellness stuff, which is easy to do if you’re not careful. 

But it definitely doesn’t have to be this way. 

Improving your health can be as easy as choosing an organic apple over chips, or adding a dash of cinnamon to your morning coffee… ðŸ˜‰

It can 👏 be 👏 simple. 👏

Today we’re talking about how something as simple as cooking with spices can completely transform your health and how to incorporate them into your daily life.

A Little Background On Spices.

All kinds of bottled spices line the shelves of pretty much every grocery store these days. In fact, a quick Google search will show you shops that sell JUST SPICES! It’s definitely a niche market.

But spices haven’t always been easy to come by or found in branded glass jars. 

Humans have been including spices (aka plants) in their diets for ages. 

Like a looooong time!

And what you may not know is that when ancient cultures first started using spices, they actually weren’t using them for flavor! 

They used spices for their healing powers. ✨

In fact, spices were considered so valuable that they were traded across Asia, North Africa, and Europe in what was called “the spice trade.”

Imagine traveling across the globe to get your hands on some black pepper. This is literally what ancient cultures did!

Global trade is what introduced these spices to many countries all over the world including India, where they became central to their culture and cooking. 

Today, spices are still being used in most countries for their health benefits, flavor, and as a part of their culture.

The Health Benefits of Spices & How to Use Them.

Let’s jump into the health benefits of spices!

As I’m sure you gathered from our quick history recap ^ that spices do so much more than add a delicious smell or flavor to your food. 

Although this alone would be reason enough for me to use them. 

Spices are chock-full of health benefits, especially when they’re organic! ðŸ˜Š  

Take a look at a few of my favorites, their benefits, and how to use them in the kitchen:

Oregano

This little herb is packed with antioxidants (more than blueberries!), which help fight free radicals in the body. [1] This means oregano can potentially protect against cancer. [2]

Its anti-inflammatory properties may also prevent diseases, such as arthritis and autoimmune diseases. [3]

How to Use it:

  • Sprinkle it into a tomato-based sauce for pizza
  • Drink oregano tea 
  • Add it to a marinade for chicken or meat

Black Pepper

Like oregano, black pepper is high in antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to a little compound called piperine. [4]

It’s an awesome source of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

^ All in a little sprinkle of pepper!

Studies suggest that black pepper also improves nutrient bioavailability, enhancing the body’s absorption of nutrients. [5] 

Good thing it tastes good and adds a little ‘pop’ to every single dish!

How to Use it:

  • Season just about everything including meat, chicken, or fish
  • Add it to soups and salads
  • Sprinkle it on top of ANY savory dish 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is *loaded* with antioxidants and polyphenols. [6] Yes, there’s a theme here, but cinnamon actually has more antioxidants than most spices, including oregano & pepper!

It’s also been shown to significantly improve insulin resistance, which is the cause of many chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [7]

Studies show that cinnamon may also protect against Alzheimer's, heart disease, and bacterial infections. [8] [9] [10]

How to Use it:

  • Sprinkle it on oatmeal
  • Sneak it into smoothies
  • Add a dash to your coffee or hot chocolate
  • Use it when baking anything

Ginger

In addition to being a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, ginger is most known as a digestive aid. 

It increases circulation and creates a gentle heat within the body which helps speed up digestion. [11] This could be one of the key reasons it’s linked to weight loss!

Ginger has powerful medicinal benefits, too. 

For starters, it can help relieve nausea. So next time you’re on a road trip, bring along some honey-based ginger chews! [12] It can also help ease other types of pain in the body, including menstrual cramps and stiff joints.

How to Use it:

  • Make ginger tea
  • Juice it with other fruits & veggies
  • Add it to soups

Turmeric

Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, is the powerhouse compound that makes this spice so beneficial.

Turmeric is best known for being anti-inflammatory – which is so important, especially since chronic inflammation has been shown to be at the root of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer. [13] 

However, studies show that curcumin isn’t highly bioavailable – meaning it isn’t easily absorbed within the body. Recent research has shown that when bound to fiber from fenugreek, the curcuminoids are more readily absorbed, making it more bioavailable which is great news!

How to Use it:

  • Sprinkle it in curry
  • Add it to soups
  • Season your vegetables with it before roasting
  • Use it to season your fish 

*All with black pepper, of course!

See how each spice provides slightly different health benefits, and how they work together? 

This is why I always recommend having plenty of VARIETY in your diet! 🙌You can use multiple spices at once or focus on a different one each day – whatever is easiest. 

Your taste buds will never get bored! ðŸ˜‰

Three Steps to Get Started Using More Spices.

By now, you’re probably thinking:

“Okay, I need to add more spices in my diet, but how can I get started?”

I have three steps to help you spice up your life:

1. Get inspired with a starter pack from diasporaco.com, shipped right to your door.  

“We're growing a better spice trade, equitably and deliciously. We source South Asia's freshest, heirloom, and single-origin spices, directly from our partner farms to bring you next-level flavor and fragrance!”

2. Pick out a spice rack from the Container Store. And choose one that you don’t mind leaving on the counter! When your spices are tucked away in the back of the pantry, or hidden inside a drawer that rarely gets opened, they don’t get used!

3. Take an online cooking class specifically focused on helping you learn to cook with spices. There are so many great options, but Milk Street Cooking School is a great place to start. Their class, The Spice Kitchen, helps you “learn to quickly transform your home cooking using the magic of ground and whole spices.” 

This particular class covers:

  1. Using Whole vs Ground Spices
  2. Turbo Charging Spice Flavors 
  3. Making Your Own Spice Blends
  4. Choosing & Storing Spices 
  5. Using Savory Spices in Sweets (yummm)
  6. 12 Recipes with Big Spice Flavors 

Time to Spice Up Your Health. 

Why settle for a dish without spices, when a simple sprinkle can transform the taste and health benefits of your meal? 

I’m all about making healthy living easy and sustainable!

Would love to know what your favorite spices are!

Resources:

  1. Health Benefits of Oregano
  2. Antioxidants and Cancer 
  3. Antioxidants and Inflammation 
  4. Health Benefits of Black Pepper
  5. Black Pepper and Nutrient Absorption
  6. Cinnamon & Antioxidants 
  7. Cinnamon & Insulin Resistance
  8. Cinnamon & Alzheimer’s Disease
  9. Cinnamon & Heart Disease
  10. Cinnamon & Bacterial Infections
  11. Ginger & Digestion
  12. Ginger & Nausea
  13. Curcumin & Inflammation

Judy Gentner