Spice Up Your Life

“People of the world, spice up your life,” but I don’t mean the Spice Girls song. Spices come from many parts of the world. India has Asia’s largest special spice market on Khari Baoli street. North America has started using and introducing more spices into their recipes. Not only are these spices delicious to use in recipes, but some are actually beneficial to your health. Spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark, or roots of plants. Some common spices have the ability to help protect against certain chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Spices have antioxidants, contribute to weight lose, lower blood glucose levels, and may have antibacterial properties.

Here are some spices that have great health benefits.


I love the smell and taste of cinnamon. There’s just something warm and comforting about it. Not everyone is in agreement with me though. I have heard some people say they do not enjoy the taste of cinnamon. Regardless, cinnamon actually contains iron, calcium, manganese, and fiber. Cinnamon contains substances that work as antioxidants to protect cells against damaged caused by harmful free radicals. Cinnamon can also help in regulating blood sugar levels. You can try to incorporate cinnamon into a stew recipe or even a dessert recipe.

Chili Peppers

Chili peppers contain capsaicin which is where you get that nice kick of flavor. Although it may feel like your mouth is on fire, capsaicin helps ease pain. Capsaicin is considered good for inflammation. A study done by Purdue University found that eating chili peppers can help suppress the appetite and help burn off more calories. Those spicy peppers also have antioxidants in them. Just add a little bit of dried or fresh peppers to give you that little kick of flavor.


This bright beautiful yellow spice is actually part of the ginger family. It does more than make a delicious bowl of curry, it may also help fight cancer. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activites according to a review in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that can help indigestion, osteoarthritis, heart disease, and some cancers. A study has shown that the potent antioxidant in turmeric improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Add a bit of this wonderful spice to your stews.


This spice is known for its myriad health benefits includding anti-inflammatory benefits. Ginger has been used for years in easing nausea and tummy aches. There are two other phytochemicals called shogaol and zingerone in ginger that have anti-tussive and anti-inflammatory properties. It can bring relief in cough and congestion from a cold or flu. It has also been known to ease discomfort from arthritis. Add some ginger to your tea or in a stir-fry to boost the flavor.


This is a Mediterranean spice which contains a good source of iron, manganese, other vitamins and minerals. It has been shown to help lower blood glucose levels. Cumin is the seed of a small plant in the parsley family. The Greeks and Romans who used cumin have highly regarded it as an essential spice. It also has antibacterial properties. This spice is has been shown to treat an upset stomach and flatulence. It has been known to promote a healthy digestive system.


Cardamom is native to the evergreen forests of India. It has been used for digestive problems including heartburn, intestinal spasms, gas, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been used for the common cold, cough, bronchitis, sore mouth and throat. Has been known to help the body eliminate waste through the kidneys. In India, they actually chew cardamom to freshen their breath. Many vitamins, phytonutrients, and essential oils in cardamom act as antioxidants. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can limit pain and swelling. Have a hiccup? Try cardamom.


The name means “moutain joy,” and was used as a symbol of happiness by ancient Greeks and Romans. Commonly used as a fresh herb in many Italian dishes, when dried, this Mediterranean spice can do more than enhance the flavor of your recipe. A teaspoon of dried oregano is a source of vitamin K and fiber. It’s packed with antioxidants and has been known to be an effective anti-bacterial agent. Oregano contains folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C, and E. Oregano is great for the immune support system. It has anti-inflammatory properties and useful in upper respiratory infections. Has been shown to have effects in fighting cancer. Oregano can also be used in colds, toothache, acne, muscle pain, fatigue, and many more. It has a very warm and aromatic flavor which will work well in many foods.


This herb or spice has been used medicinally and as an ingredient for over 5000 years. It has been used to prevent or treat a wide range of diseases and conditions. Garlic has been used for many conditions related to the heart and blood system. It is also an excellent cold-fighter. It has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that garlic protects the blood vessels from oxidative stress and inflammation. Garlic has a good source of selenium, flavonoids, and sulfur-containing nutrients. Roast a few cloves in the oven and add them into your mashed potatoes.

Black pepper

During the spice trade era, black pepper was one of the most sought-after and expensive spices. It’s been proven to help lower blood lipids and inhibit cholesterol absorption. It helps aid in digestion. Pepper has a natural antibiotic property which makes it an effective remedy for intestinal diseases caused by bacteria. Black pepper can help relieve coughs and colds. The spiciness can also clear congestion and clear sinuses. Black pepper fights cancer. A research done in Great Britain has indicated that the active chemical ingredient found in pepper has an effective treatment for vitiligo, a skin disease that causes areas of the skin to lose their pigmentation. Black pepper can be easily used in many recipes. Sprinkle some pepper onto your salad or add some into your soup.


This tiny spice is a big giant when it comes to nutrition and natural health. Cloves are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and analgesic. Packed with antioxidants and a good source of minerals, fiber, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. Cumin can temporarily treat a toothache. Has been known to help improve the digestive system by alleviating vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal gas and stomachaches. Cloves can relieve upper respiratory infections and has aided in attacking germs to rid you of that sore throat. Throw some cloves into your tea when you’re sick.

Try to see if you can incorporate some of these spices in your everyday cooking. This would also be a great time to try out new recipes as well. I’ve only listed 10 spices to try, but there are many more out there to explore. From paprika to bay leaf to saffron. Many of these spices contain such great health effects for the body. If you’re looking into trying new spices, most should be available at your local grocers. The more exotic ones may need to be bought online.

Since it is summer for us folks here in California, it’s time to turn the heat on those grills. Try this rub to bring more flavor into your vegetables.

Vegetable Seasoning

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk. Select the vegetables you wan to grill, anything from mushroom to zucchini should work on this recipe. Cut into bite-sized pieces and put on a baking tray. Slowly pour in half the mixture and work the marinade in. Add more if needed. You could also skewer the vegetables and throw them on the grill. Let marinade do it’s magic for an hour. Longer is even better to really get those flavors in. Pop them on the grill and cook until tender. Feel free to double up on the recipe if necessary. If you have leftover marinade, you can always save it to use for another recipe.

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