As a generally healthy individual, I eat my daily greens, stay away from added sugar and include protein and healthy fats in my diet. This, we have learned, is probably the most important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. Beyond that, though, there is actually much more we can do for our diet in addition to just eating the right foods. This is where the health benefits of spices come into play. Spices are more than just a way to change up your normal chicken and rice!
Not only that, but using these different spices in place of salt will significantly reduce your sodium intake which may aid in lowering blood pressure! Check out this list of 5 spices you need to add to your diet for health benefits.
*As a note, please always check with your healthcare provider before including any of these in your diet.
Cinnamon is most commonly associated with baking, and thereby falls into the off-limits category of “added sugars”. However, you can gain a ton of benefits from this spice. Not only that, but health benefits to active people are especially huge!
Cinnamon has a big-time effect on insulin sensitivity, thereby improving the body’s ability to use glucose. What does that mean? Your body will more efficiently digest and absorb your food after a meal, which will regulate weight gain. Other benefits of cinnamon include raising good cholesterol, potentially lowering bad cholesterol and reducing inflammation.
Just ½ – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon will allow you to reap its benefits – add it to your daily post-workout shake, coffee, oatmeal, yogurt, or even to meat to give it a smoky taste!
If you don’t like spicy foods, you may need to tone this one down a bit! Cayenne pepper aids in digestion and muscle cramps and has been known to fight off cold and flu bugs. This hot spice can also help lower high cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
For those leading an active lifestyle, this spice also helps to relieve joint and other severe-level pain while also aiding in weight loss. It’s high in vitamins A and E, so it also contributes to healthy vision and skin as well as slowing the aging process.
I like to mix a teaspoon of cayenne pepper with ¼ – ½ a lemon and hot water and drink it (be prepared for a fiery mouth!) but you can also add this to any meal to spice it up.
Turmeric goes back many, many years as being known for its medicinal qualities. This intense spice has some of the most exciting attributes, including reducing risk for heart disease, preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s and fighting depression.
On a more day-to-day scale, this spice acts as an anti-inflammatory, increases antioxidants in the body and improves memory. It can also delay aging and age-related chronic diseases.
You can buy turmeric in powder form and even pill form, but always try and pair it with black pepper to enhance the benefits. I add ½ teaspoon of turmeric and a dash of pepper to my eggs everyday. You can also make tasty ethnic dishes using turmeric.
Crushed Red Pepper
In my opinion, crushed red pepper is an easy spice to add to your diet, as most of us have tried it on pizza at some point in our lives. But did you know that crushed red pepper has huge health benefits? Crushed red pepper has something called capsaicin—which is responsible for many health benefits, including acting as a painkiller.
Crushed red pepper also has been known to increase metabolism and act as an appetite suppressant. It can also boost immunity and increase antioxidants.
Add ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper to your eggs in the morning (along with your turmeric and pepper), or on top of salads, fish, or other proteins.
My personal favorite spice for benefits is garlic. I add garlic to everything I eat… except maybe my morning oatmeal! Garlic has been proven to reduce bad cholesterol, risk for heart disease and risk for cancer. That, in and of itself, is enough for me!
It has also been proven to fight infection, viruses, and the common cold. Additionally, some studies have also shown that garlic can improve athletic performance and bone health.
Like I said, I add garlic to everything. My personal favorite is marinating chicken in garlic and olive oil with some red wine vinegar. Plus, you can add garlic powder to any recipe without adding a significant caloric increase!
Post written by FFC Group Fitness Instructor Tiffany Florczak.
Tiffany is a group fitness instructor at multiple FFC locations. She currently specializes in strength-based formats, but you can find her teaching on a spin bike soon! Tiffany enjoys spending her free time in the weight room of FFC, experimenting with healthy recipes in the kitchen, or exploring Chicago’s food scene.