‘Tis the Seasoning
Cooking at home could be the key to living your healthiest life.
“Restaurant food is notoriously higher in salt, fat and calories, which could add up to weight gain and a decrease in health,” explains Dr. Niki Young, N.D. from Revolutions Natural Medical Solutions. “Cooking with your family creates better communication and sense of bonding between family members. And it has been shown to elevate mood and even the immune system. Finally, the best aspect of cooking at home is the use of spices, which can have a great impact on health while boosting the flavor of home-cooked meals.”
Garlic doesn’t just keep vampires at bay; it also does wonders for cardiovascular health. “The benefits of garlic are widespread...and include acting as a blood thinner, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing artery-clogging plaque and, overall, lowering your risk of a heart attack. Garlic also helps prevent and even fight cancer,” Dr. Young says. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the antioxidant activity of garlic can clean up free radicals, stop carcinogens from damaging DNA, and boost activity of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens. To take advantage of this spice powerhouse, Dr. Young recommends cooking with one crushed clove per day. Fresh and raw garlic is best, but some research indicates that powdered garlic can also be beneficial.
Cinnamon has been used as a spice around the world for centuries—not surprising, considering it has a history of potential health benefits. “In traditional medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestive disorders such as indigestion, gas and bloating, stomach upset and diarrhea,” explains Sarah Baracco, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Roseville. “Cinnamon is also believed to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant benefits, but research regarding these properties is ongoing and there is lack of evidence supporting the use of cinnamon for any medical conditions.” While the jury is still out on the proven health benefits of cinnamon, it does give a nice flavor to many foods, including smoothies, oatmeal, fruits and yogurt.
Grow a basil plant, and you’ll always have this fresh herb on hand to add to salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas and more. “A study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science reports that basil can kill acne-causing bacteria. And the antioxidative properties of basil have been found to potentially block or suppress liver, stomach and lung cancer,” Dr. Young explains. Eugenol, a compound in basil, blocks cyclooxygenase (COX), the same pain-inducing enzyme that is also blocked by NSAIDS, she says. In addition to working like a pain reliever, basil also has been shown to prevent ulcers caused by ingesting NSAIDS. Not bad, basil!
Turmeric, or curcuma longa, has been used as both a spice and household remedy for many centuries, Baracco says. It’s been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to strengthen the body inside and out. By toning the digestive system and the liver, it can eliminate parasitic worms, help regulate menstruation, dispel gallstones and relieve arthritis, she explains. Also used in Chinese medicine, turmeric has been beneficial to many digestive and urinary issues.
Cooking with spices like cayenne will support a lower daily intake of sodium, Baracco says. “At this point, that is where the most proven benefits lie. Cayenne is traditionally used for weight loss, sore throat, tonsillitis, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, muscle pain and skin conditions. However, clinical support for cayenne for these uses is lacking.”