by Eliana Lakritz MS RD LDN, Clinical Dietitian, Baystate Noble Hospital
With the cold weather and holidays approaching, it is time to start thinking about what you’ll be bringing to holiday meals. Traditional dishes are made fragrant, savory or sweet with the addition of herbs and spices. Many popular holiday spices, including but not limited to turmeric, cinnamon, sage, and ginger, have been shown to offer benefits to your health. Here’s a review of the latest health findings on a few herbs/spices with suggestions on how to incorporate them into your diet.
As one of the most commonly used spices, cinnamon has been thoroughly studied for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic effects. Many studies have confirmed such effects, making cinnamon a healthy addition to your favorite treats. It provides a sweet aroma that enhances the flavor of fresh baked breads, oatmeal dishes, winter squash, and even roasted carrots. Using cinnamon to cut down on added sugar reduces calories that can contribute to weight gain.
Sage is used in a lot of stuffing recipes to provide a unique flavor. In several well-designed studies, rosmarinic and carnosic acids within the sage leaf have demonstrated antioxidant-like properties. These properties can be protective against free-radical and oxidative damage that is linked to development of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Add fresh sage to enhance the flavor meat or bread-based dishes.
Ginger is another crowd favorite for the holidays. It is highly regarded for its aid in nausea reduction, indigestion, and other digestive ailments because its metabolites seem to accumulate in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. For this reason, it is commonly used in cancer patients and pregnant women struggling to suppress nausea and vomiting. Studies have also found some promising anti-cancer properties of ginger, especially in colon cancer. Ginger has also been shown to improve cholesterol levels, thus reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Grate fresh ginger or sprinkle ground ginger over root vegetables, add to tea, or use in baking for a rich, earthy flavor.
Curcumin, a phytochemical found in turmeric, has been drawing researchers’ attention for its possible interference with the inflammatory process. Many animal and some human studies have demonstrated a positive impact of curcumin use on prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. Specifically, there is some promising evidence to suggest that curcumin supplementation can be protective against arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. While additional research is needed to determine specific dosage recommendations of curcumin, you can include turmeric into your diet to help reap some of the health benefits. The deep yellow spice enhances vegetable, lentil, or legume dishes by adding an ethnic, earthy flavor.
If you are interested in learning more about nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitian at Baystate Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 ex: 5671 for more information.