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Spice It Up For Health

These eight herbs are proven to decrease inflammation or disease risk.

| November 8th, 2011
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Spice It Up For Health

When you add a dash of cinnamon to your cup of coffee or a spring of rosemary to your famous baked chicken, you may think you’re merely making your favorite drinks and dishes more flavorful. But spicing up your meals doesn’t just up the tastiness factor—it can also be a boon to your health and your beauty.

“The benefits spices offer you in terms of your diet and health are endless,” says Elisa Zied, R.D., author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips. “They can help control blood sugar, protect against inflammation that can contribute to chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes and may play a role—directly or indirectly—in weight management. Spices literally add spice to your life and diet but can also be a simple way to enhance meals and optimize your overall health, inside and out.”

Find out which health benefits are hiding in your spice rack and test-drive the top disease-fighting spices with our easy-breezy recipes.

QUIZ: What Nutrients Are You Getting?

1. Cinnamon

The sweet spice, which contains iron, calcium, manganese and even fiber, is loaded with health benefits. “Cinnamon contains substances that work as antioxidants to protect cells against damage caused by harmful free radicals—substances found in the environment and inside the body that destroy cells,” explains Zied.

The spice may also be a diabetic’s new best friend. “Now we know that cinnamon has a remarkable effect on regulating blood sugar,” explains celebrity nutritionist Oz Garcia, Ph.D. Several studies suggest that cinnamon may help regulate blood glucose as well as blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes. “One study found that consuming two grams of cinnamon for 12 weeks significantly reduces the HbA1c [a test that shows blood sugar levels], systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure in those with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes,” says Zied. Another study found that cinnamon extract significantly increased insulin sensitivity and improved hyperglycemia in mice.

What’s more, a dash of cinnamon may help curb your sweet tooth. “Sweet spices such as cinnamon can also satisfy cravings and when added to tea or fruit, may eliminate the need for supplemental sweeteners,” says Cheryl Forberg, R.D., chef, nutritionist for NBC'S “The Biggest Loser” and author of "Positively Ageless:  A 28 Day Plan for a Younger, Slimmer, Sexier You."

Try this recipe: Apricot Chicken and Green Beans with Almond Slivers

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