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Boost your health by spicing up your food!

Now, I love my cooking and as well as being yummy in most dishes, it’s been proven that spices can actually boost your brain power, help with ailments ranging from psoriasis to bowel conditions and can aid weight loss. “All spices have extremely strong anti inflammatory properties and are high in antioxidants.” Says Lily Soutter, a nutritionist.

Here are what these common spices can do for you…


Best for balancing blood sugar and boosting brainpower and memory
Cinnamon has long been used as a healing spice in traditional medicine, and scientific studies have now confirmed its benefits. Neurologists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have found that feeding cinnamon to mice made them better learners. “Cinnamon has been proven to help with blood sugar control and to improve insulin resistance, so it is a powerful tool in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and metabolic conditions — but might help with weight loss,” says Soutter. “It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, and in animal studies has been shown to lead to various improvements for Alzheimer’s and people with memory problems.”
How to include it in your diet
Add it to your cooking. It’s best consumed with a meal including carbohydrates because it reduces the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a meal, says Soutter.

Cayenne pepper

Best for pain relief and fat burning
This hot chilli pepper contains capsaicin, which give it its spiciness and health benefits. It’s a pain reliever and several studies have shown that a topical capsaicin cream can be used to treat aching muscles and joints. Trials on mice have shown that capsaicin raises metabolism and elevates levels of “good” brown fat, which helps your body to eliminate “bad” white fat. When Japanese researchers added cayenne pepper to high-fat, high-protein breakfast meals, people given the spicy foods were found to have a calorie-burning boost afterwards.
How to include it in your diet
Add it to your food, take it in capsule form or have half a teaspoon in hot water with lemon first thing.


Best for improving circulation, easing nausea, reducing joint and muscle pain and relieving period cramps
A teaspoon of dried ginger has the same antioxidant potential as a portion of tomatoes, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found. “It’s a known vasodilator, so is fantastic for boosting circulation and pumping blood around the body more efficiently,” Soutter explains. It’s also good for treating nausea. Ginger’s powerful anti-inflammatory compounds mean that it can be helpful in reducing muscle and joint pain, with some studies suggesting that it eases the aches of osteoarthritis and can help to reduce menstrual pain and cramping.

Researchers at the University of Georgia also found that consuming 2g of fresh ginger daily reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25 per cent in gym-goers who used weight machines.
How to include it in your diet Fresh, powdered or as a supplement.


Best for bad breath, candida and fungal infections
Cloves are richer in immune-boosting antioxidants than any other spice, according to a study by researchers at the Miguel Hernández university in Spain a few years ago. This is because they contain high levels of beneficial antioxidant plant compounds called polyphenols. They are also known for their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. An animal study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that chewing leaves of the clove plant inhibited the growth of fungi that also live in the human body, including candida, and improved oral health. The study suggested it’s likely that chewing cloves had the same effect.
How to include it in your diet
Soften ten to twenty cloves in a small amount of water before eating them. Just add the water and the softened cloves to your next smoothie. Clove oil can also be taken as a tincture.


Best for weight loss and digestion
Cumin seeds and powder have lots of antioxidant potential, according to USDA figures.

Cumin is also a good fat-burner. In a trial at the Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences in Iran, overweight participants were divided into two groups and while all were asked to cut their calorie intake by 500 calories a day, one group also consumed a teaspoon of cumin seeds daily. After three months the cumin group had lost 3lb more than those in the non-cumin group. They also saw their body fat percentage drop by 14.64 per cent, almost triple the reduction seen by participants who had not taken the spice.

A 2010 study at the University of California found that adding a mix of cumin, ginger, paprika, garlic, oregano and rosemary to burgers prepared on a barbecue reduced the formation of unhealthy oxidised fats during cooking and digestion by 70 per cent.
How to include it in your diet
Add it to your cooking.

Black pepper

Best for fat-fighting and lowering cholesterol levels
A substance in black pepper called piperine aids weight loss. In a study by Korean scientists in 2012, piperine seemed to prevent new fat cells from forming and kick-started a metabolic reaction that helped to prevent weight gain in other ways. Other studies suggest that black pepper reduces levels of fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream.
How to include it in your diet
Add liberally to food. Piperine and black pepper supplements are also available.

Fennel seeds

Best for period pain
Fennel seeds are packed with essential oils and active compounds that relieve pain and help to relax muscle spasms. They might also help to rebalance the female sex hormones, so they can relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A study at Urmia University in Iran found that PMS symptoms were reduced after eight weeks of taking fennel extract. Other studies have suggested that the seeds may help with sinus congestion.
How to include it in your diet
For period pain, try a fennel extract.

Mustard seeds

Best for boosting metabolism
Mustard seeds are loaded with antioxidants and are one of the few sources of the trace mineral selenium, renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties. Some small trials have suggested that mustard seeds could boost your metabolism, even offsetting up to 45 calories from every meal consumed.
How to include it in your diet
Add mustard seeds to cooking or eat it as a condiment.


Best for boosting digestion and easing headaches
Cardamom is high in fibre and has long been used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid. Drinking cardamom tea is also said to ease headaches.
How to include it in your diet
Add the pods to soups and stews, or make a tea by crushing the seeds from the pods and boiling them in water.

Isn’t it amazing that these things we use every day in the kitchen can be SO beneficial for our health? Use these spices to boost your workout and get training!!