Spices make a dish sing. Not only that, many spices have beneficial properties that are good for our health. Spices are high in antioxidants, and antioxidants fight free radicals that can wreak havoc in our bodies. For heart health specifically, antioxidants help reduce the impact of elevated cholesterol levels.
But spices can do even more than that. Spices can add several antioxidant compounds that can lead to a decrease in inflammation and a positive impact on cardiovascular health. And because spices increase flavour, they can reduce the need for salt. Here are five spices that even experts recommend for heart health.
Aromatic and sweet with peppery and woodsy notes, cinnamon has been shown to help control blood sugar levels, especially in diabetics. When you control blood sugar levels, there are secondary benefits from a cholesterol perspective as cinnamon lowers cholesterol and lowers triglycerides too, so it helps improve the cholesterol profile.
Cumin is used as both a whole seed and as ground powder and is a common addition in Indian cooking. Cumin is a heart-healthy spice because it contains flavonoids, a potent antioxidant that can help lower inflammation in the body. Cumin may also assist with weight loss and increase the release of bile from the liver to help digest fats.
Botanically speaking, garlic is a vegetable, but often gets grouped as a spice. And now, you’ll even find garlic powder in the spice section at the grocery store. Garlic has been shown to improve blood vessel flexibility and can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It can also reduce blood pressure which is important for a healthy heart. But is there a difference between fresh and powdered garlic? It is best to eat garlic in the fresh form.
Ginger is a rhizome with a peppery and pungent flavor that brings a lot of aroma to whatever it is added to. Similar to garlic, ginger is most pungent in its fresh form, but also comes dried and powdered. Ginger tea is used commonly to reap its anti-inflammatory, GI-soothing benefits. The active compound in ginger is gingerol, which has been shown to lower oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can promote atherosclerosis and heart disease, and is typically present in excess in many heart conditions, and lowering it is advantageous for heart health.
Paprika comes from grinding up dried red peppers, and it comes in different versions sweet, smoky and spicy. Paprika is a heart-healthy spice because of its rich vitamin A content. It belongs to the beta carotene family, which is a potent carotenoid the pigment that gives paprika its bright colour and provides an antioxidant boost to your food. Some studies show it may also help lower HDL cholesterol.
If you are wondering if eating spices can have any negative side effects, know that spices are cooked in foods in normal small doses which ensures there usually aren’t any contraindications. All spices are good for us in moderation. Although some people could have an allergy. Again, overdoing it, as with anything, can be problematic.
It’s important to consider which spices you are consuming if you are especially on medication. For example, certain spices like garlic, turmeric, ginger, paprika and cinnamon should be used cautiously and in moderation when individuals are on blood thinners. When making any changes to your diet, it’s always a good idea to speak with a health professional to ensure optimal safety.