06 September 2012

Add some spice to your life and help heal your body

After completing a 7 day raw food detox, I often am left with a renewed appreciation for the simple flavors of foods, herbs and spices. Healthy dishes can be easily prepared with very little ingredients, while still being highly flavorful, with the addition of some herbs and/or spices. And the best part is that many herbs and spices have tremendous healing qualities to boot. The following is a brief run-down of some of the ones you should strive to include in your diet.

Inflammation is thought to be the root cause of many diseases. So why not add in some tasty and anti-inflammatory spices to your meals?

Ginger and turmeric are anti-inflammatory powerhouses, and they create unique flavors when added to dishes. Turmeric is one of nature's most powerful healers. It may be as an effective anti-inflammatory as drugs like hydrocortisone and Motrin. Research also shows it is heart protective too. Turmeric has been found to have cancer protective effects when ingested in combination with cruciferous veggies (ex. broccoli). It is also a natural liver detoxifier.

In addition to reducing inflammation, gingerol, the active ingredient in ginger, has been shown to significantly help with nausea, and is more effective than Dramamine in preventing motion sickness. Whenever I travel, I take a gingersnap flavored Larabar with me for this reason. Ginger is also a powerful antioxidant, and is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. I like to add ginger and turmeric to salad dressings, Asian inspired dishes, throw a few shakes on some steamed veggies, or mix into cooked grains. I also often add a bit of ginger to my green smoothies!

For antiviral effects, think garlic, oregano, and thyme. The antibacterial properties of oregano are due to its content of thymol and carvacrol. Oregano works in the intestinal tract as a pro-biotic. It helps to kill unfriendly bacteria, without damage to the friendly bacteria. It is effective against candida albicans overgrowth throughout the body, which is a very common, but under-diagnosed, affliction for those who ingest large amounts of sugar.

Garlic is my go-to guy when I feel a cold coming on. Just chew up a raw clove, and be sure to stay in for the night! It can also be used to treat an ear infection by placing a piece of raw clove, wrapped in tissue, in your ear over-night. (Just use common sense and don't wedge it in too far!) Garlic also is highly cancer protective, as it acts a powerful anti-oxidant. Two cloves of raw garlic per week provide cancer protective benefits.

Thyme is known to be antispasmodic and expectorant in the respiratory system, so it is beneficial in the treatment of bronchial coughs, laryngitis, and whooping cough. It is also effective against a variety of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus. These immune supportive herbs can easily be incorporated into any Italian dish!

Cinnamon is one of my favorite seasonings to add to my food. Not only is it anti-microbial and can stop the growth of bacteria, fungi and yeast, it is also a blood sugar stabilizer, as it has insulin-like qualities. It's a fabulous addition to incorporate a little sweetness to your meal, without spiking your blood sugar! I like to slice up sweet potatoes, and roast them with a little cinnamon and a touch of olive oil. Cinnamon has anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, and in the world of spices it is one of the richest sources of antioxidants.

Finally, a highly underrated and under utilized herb is cayenne. It aids in digestion, acts as an anti-inflammatory, has anti-fungal properties, stimulates the liver to help with detoxification, increases blood flow, strengthens the heart, and shrinks tumors! One of my favorite recipes is this spicy cabbage dish

So folks, the moral of the story today is, if you want to upgrade your health, just try adding a little spice to your life!!!

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/po1yester