For centuries, spices have been utilized as natural healing tonics. Spices were so valuable historically that they played an instrumental role in building international trading empires, including the Age of Discovery when spice routes were blocked by the Ottoman Empire.
While they’re no longer as rare and expensive as chests of sparkling jewels, spices retain their value in the health benefits they provide.
Sweeter spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are known to help regulate blood sugar levels, while the more savory spices that we put on our veggies and poultry, like sage and rosemary, are powerful antioxidants.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite spices to utilize in the kitchen during the holidays.
Ginger molasses cookies, ginger lemon tea, gingerbread houses – the list of scrumptious holiday treats goes on and on. Ginger has long been used to soothe sore muscles and support healthy digestion. It is also thought to quell nausea and support detoxification.
Ahh…few things are more comforting than the smell of cinnamon baking in a bundt cake or rising from a stove-top stew. Cinnamon is coveted for its role in helping to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. That means cinnamon can be especially helpful when consumed during the holidays, when sweet treats are served at every turn. Cinnamon also contains antioxidant compounds that help fight free radicals and has been shown to support a healthy cardiovascular system via its effects on cellular health. In fact, in a study of 26 spices, cinnamon came out on top as the most effective antioxidant!
A rich source of antioxidants, including carnosic acid and carnosol, rosemary is especially helpful at boosting the immune system and supporting healthy circulation during the cold winter months. In particular, rosemary is thought to keep prostate cells healthy and thwart oxidation at the source. Rosemary is also rich in vitamin B6, iron, and calcium!
Nutmeg is one of two spices that grow on evergreen trees with the scientific classification Myristica fragrans. Native to the islands near Indonesia, nutmeg is a good source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, copper, and other essential vitamins and minerals. This rich spice has natural pain-relieving qualities, which scientists attribute to its menthol-like component. Nutmeg is also a potent antibacterial, making it effective at combating bad breath and other oral health issues.
Bloated belly from indulging in too many holiday treats? Look no further than this tasty, potent spice. Cloves are thought to stimulate digestive enzymes, which help break down food and move it through the digestive system. Cloves are also a rich source of antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and help protect cells.
The tasty herb used to liven up the poultry, roasted vegetables, and fish dishes gracing the table this time of year is first and foremost an excellent memory enhancer. Celebrated for its antioxidant properties, sage is also thought to help prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s by inhibiting the increase in AChE activity.