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4 Spices for Your Brain

Scientists used to think that you were born with all the neurons you’d ever have. If you drank alcohol and killed brain cells, well, good luck. Then in 1998 researchers discovered the birth of new neurons in individuals who were near death. Turns out your brain–no matter how old or young–can generate new neurons.

One key to brain growth? Diet. What you eat helps generate healthy neurons with bushels of dendrites (nerve receptors). It also keeps nerve endings firing and allows you to maintain brain flexibility. Even if your memory’s so fried you can’t remember your spouse’s cell phone number, food still provides brain sustenance.

We’ve been in food information overkill ever since scientists discovered that you are what you eat. Contradictory studies analyze every type of food, vitamin, mineral, herb, and combination thereof. Even so, research does reveal old-time wisdom: what you swallow makes you smarter and happier (or slower and more blue).

Turmeric. So, will a little Indian curry help your brain? The chemical curcumin that makes turmeric yellow appears to activate a key antioxidizing enzyme that reduces plaque buildup. It also is an anti-inflammatory that fights some cancers and multiple sclerosis.

Saffron fights depression in humans, as well as improving learning and memory in animals. Saffron twice daily was as effective as Prozac in treating mild to moderate depression, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Sage, the aptly named herb, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Chinese sage root contains compounds similar to Alzheimer’s disease drugs, and just 50 microliters (.001690 fl oz) of sage oil extract significantly enhanced memory, according to research in Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior. Sage is a great addition to salads, in soups, even on pizza. It tastes and smells better fresh.

Cinnamon. A whiff of cinnamon boosts your brain. Even cinnamon-flavored gum enhances memory, visual-motor speed, recognition, attention, and focus. Cinnamon is a wonder spice: it helps to regulate sugar levels; reduces proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells; reduces clotting of blood platelets; acts as a antimicrobial, which means it helps with yeast infections; contains the trace mineral manganese and is a very good source of dietary fiber, iron, and calcium. Try some apples and cinnamon for a snack–especially for your kids before homework.

Excerpted from A Better Brain at Any Age (Conari Press, 2009) by Sandra Kornblatt.
 
a Care2 favorite by Melissa Breyer
 


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6 Health Reasons To Eat Spicy Foods More Often

Many people from different cultures and backgrounds worldwide have a special place in their hearts for spicy foods, and it turns out that these foods don’t only taste great, but provide wonderful health benefits as well.

Although everyone prefers a different level of spice in their foods, it doesn’t actually matter how much your food burns your tongue, but what type of spice you use in your cooking. Spices can serve as wonderful alternatives to medicines and other conventional healing modalities, and have been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, including aches and pains. Many spices have antimicrobial properties, which explains why they make wonderful alternative remedies.

“Studies show that many different herbs and spices offer health benefits,” says David Heber, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Much of the existing evidence supports use of cinnamon, chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary, Heber tells WebMD.

According to Heber, a compound in chili peppers called dihydrocapsiate increased fat-burning capacity in a study where people ate the spice three times a day. Furthermore, a study in Cell Metabolism showed decreased blood pressure in lab animals that consuming capsaicin, the component in chili peppers that makes them spicy.

If you don’t know which spices to add to your food, start out with the simple ones we’ve listed above. Thousands of spices exist in the world, but if you don’t use spices often, it’s best to begin with “safer” spices that you might be more familiar with. You can easily replace salt, sugar, or other additives with spices, which have no added calories or salt.

If you need more convincing to add spices to your food, read on for more of the benefits you can expect to receive.

6 HEALTH REASONS TO EAT SPICY FOODS MORE OFTEN

1. SPICES CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT.

Many spices have properties that increase body heat, which will help to boost your metabolism, and therefore lose weight. Others, such as cinnamon, help to balance your blood sugar so that you stay full longer.

Furthermore, as we mentioned above, spices can serve as a substitute for other additives such as sugar, which contains calories but no nutrients. More commonly, people use a spice to replace salt, which can pack on the water weight due to bloating.

Spices will help to make your food more satisfying, which means you won’t need as much to feel full.

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2. SPICES CAN INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM.

According to Better Nutrition, the capsaicin in chili peppers increases your body heat, which therefore amps up your metabolism. This goes along with our first point, but it’s still worth mentioning. Eating spices can serve as an easy way to increase your energy and metabolism, plus make your food taste better. Sounds like a win-win, right?

3. SPICES CAN PREVENT HEART DISEASE.

Garlic, ginger, and cinnamon specifically have been proven to help prevent heart disease. According to Dr. Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist, “Garlic, one of the most healthy herbs and spices in the world, is both a powerful antioxidant and blood thinner. It is commonly recommended as a cholesterol-lowering agent, and has been shown to help lower triglycerides – blood fats that are closely linked to heart disease. Garlic can even lower blood pressure as effectively as some drugs (as shown in studies where subjects supplemented with daily dosages ranging from 600 – 900 mg over a period of 3-6 months.”

He also lists cinnamon as one of the best healing herbs and spices for increasing antioxidant levels in the blood, and ginger as a natural blood thinner.

4. SPICES CAN ALSO ALLEVIATE SINUS TROUBLE.

This one seems pretty self-explanatory, as we’ve all had spicy food at one time or another, and had to run for the tissues in the middle of our meal. Because of the incredible heat present in spices, they cause the sinuses to become unclogged, which explains the runny noses and watery eyes.

If you ever have sinus issues, just reach for your favorite spice to add to your cooking, and you’ll see some relief in no time.

5. EATING SPICES COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER.

According to a study done by Time, people who ate spicy foods 1-2 times per week had a 10 percent reduced risk of death, compared to those who ate spicy food once or fewer times a week.

You can see why spices might make you live longer, as they decrease your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening issues.

6. SPICES CAN SERVE AS A NATURAL REMEDY FOR ANXIETY AND STRESS.

According to Dr. Cynthia, a holistic doctor, passionflower, kava kava, turmeric, and lavender have the potential to decrease anxiety and stress in a healthy, nonaddictive way. L-theanine, an amino acid found mostly in green and black tea, can reduce anxiety as well.

So, there you have it, six science backed reasons to eat more spicy foods; remember, incorporate spices into your foods slowly, so that you don’t overwhelm your taste buds. Then, once you feel comfortable, you can experiment with bolder spices that also make your food taste great!

source: Power of Positivity     July 15, 2016


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The Common Spice That Boosts Learning Ability

One cause of low learning ability is an imbalance of proteins in the hippocampus that can be corrected.

The common household spice cinnamon could be used to enhance learning ability, a new study reveals.

Some people seem to have more difficulties with learning than others.

Some lab mice are the same.

But when lab mice that were poor learners were fed cinnamon their learning improved, the researchers found.

Dr Kalipada Pahan, who led the study, said:

“This would be one of the safest and the easiest approaches to convert poor learners to good learners.”

One cause of a low ability to learn is thought to be an imbalance of proteins in the hippocampus, the part of the brain vital for memory and learning.

Cinnamon, though, is transformed by the body into sodium benzoate: a drug used to treat brain damage that rebalances critical proteins.

In the study, mice were fed cinnamon for a month.

The results showed that the poor learners improved dramatically in terms of their learning and memory.

cinnamon

Dr Pahan said:

“We have successfully used cinnamon to reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with poor learning.”

Cinnamon, though, did not have any effect on the mice who were already good learners.

Dr Pahan said:

“Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue.
We need to further test this approach in poor learners. If these results are replicated in poor learning students, it would be a remarkable advance.”

Cinnamon has also been found in previous research to reverse changes related to Parkinson’s in the brains of mice.

Along the way, they have discovered the best type of cinnamon to use (Ceylon versus Chinese), Dr Pahan explained:

“Although both types of cinnamon are metabolized into sodium benzoate, we have seen that Ceylon cinnamon is much more pure than Chinese cinnamon, as the latter contains coumarin, a hepatotoxic (liver damaging) molecule.”

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology (Modi et al., 2016).

 
source: PsyBlog  July 13, 2016


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The Benefits of Paprika

Paprika – made by grinding capsicum peppers into a fine powder – adds vibrant red color and a rich, pungent flavor to a variety of meals. At 19 calories per tablespoon, paprika adds only a negligible amount to your daily calorie intake, but it comes packed with nutrients. Just a single 1-tablespoon serving provides ample amounts of several beneficial nutrients, especially carotenoids – a nutrient family that includes vitamin A.

Vitamin A and Carotenoids
Paprika comes loaded with carotenoids – the pigments that give it its deep red color. Its lutein and zeaxanthin content benefits your eyesight by preventing harmful light rays from damaging your eye tissues, while its vitamin A content aids in night vision and plays a role in healthy cell development. A tablespoon of paprika contains 3,349 international units of vitamin A – more than 100 percent of the daily intake requirement for men and women, set by the Institute of Medicine. While, as of September 2013, the Institute of Medicine has not set a recommended daily intake, consuming 12 milligrams daily improves eyesight, reports the American Optometric Association. Each serving of paprika has 1.3 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin, or 11 percent of this goal.

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Paprika’s vibrant red hue hints
at its beneficial carotenoid content.

Vitamin E
Paprika also boosts your daily intake of vitamin E. Each tablespoon provides 2 milligrams of vitamin E, or 13 percent of the recommended daily intake determined by the Institute of Medicine. Vitamin E helps control blood clot formation and promotes healthy blood vessel function, and also serves as an antioxidant, preventing cellular lipids from destruction. Getting enough vitamin E in your diet also promotes healthy cell communication.

Iron
Adding paprika to your diet also helps you get more iron. The iron from your diet supports your cellular metabolism – it allows your cells to carry out a series of chemical reactions, called the electron transport chain, that result in the energy production. Iron also supports the function of hemoglobin and myoglobin – two proteins tasked with transporting and storing oxygen that your tissues need to function. A tablespoon of paprika contains 1.4 milligrams of iron, providing 8 and 18 percent of the daily recommended intakes for women and men, respectively, determined by the Institute of Medicine.

Consuming More Paprika
Combine paprika with other spices, such as garlic powder and cayenne, and use as a healthful rub for chicken breast, fish or lean red meat. Lightly coat sweet potatoes in olive oil and paprika, and then roast until tender, or use paprika as a seasoning for roasted or steamed carrots. Add a spoonful of paprika to your favorite hummus to add flavor, or roast peeled chickpeas in a mix of paprika and coconut oil for a healthful snack. Finally, try using paprika to season homemade soups – it pairs especially well with pureed carrot, squash or pumpkin soups.

Dec 18, 2013      By Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
 


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8 Best Spices to Help You Lose Weight

Life in the 21st century has become sedentary for many people. Modern entertainment, fast food, lack of time, etc. contributes to only about 4 out of every 10 people exercising on a regular basis. As a result, many people find it very hard to lose weight and keep it off.

There is some good news though; recent studies have shown that spicy foods can curb appetite and speed up metabolism and thus have a fat burning ability. “How?” you might ask. Hot spices, especially chiles, may inhibit overeating because they contribute to satiety, the feeling of fullness after eating. Not to mention it may be more difficult to overindulge in a hot, spicy food due to the fact that you may become uncomfortable before you can overeat.

In addition to making people feel full faster, chili powder and many other spices have a thermogenic effect. This results in the body heating itself from within, which revs up the metabolism. The term metabolism describes the sum of all chemical processes that take place in the body. It manages the movement of nutrients in the blood after digestion which results in growth, energy and other body functions. Certain spices cause our bodies to burn extra calories by boosting the metabolic rate and thus stimulating weight loss. Some studies have found that adding thermogenic spices at a meal can increase the number of calories burned by 25% for up to an hour after the meal. Hey every little bit helps! The following spices have been shown to have this effect to some degree:

Black Pepper– Black pepper has been shown to raise the body temperature and increase metabolism. “Found in dried black pepper, piperine may prevent new fat cells from forming,” Web MD. It also has been shown to aid in digestion because when it is eaten, a signal is sent to your stomach to produce hydrochloric acid. This acid is necessary for the digestion of protein and other foods in the stomach. When not enough hydrochloric acid is produced by the stomach, the results can range from gas and indigestion to diarrhea. Black Pepper also has been found to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Chili Powder– Chili powder contains capsaicin, which is a powerful stimulant that raises the body temperature and fat burning ability by up to 25% and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve circulation. “Research shows that people who don’t typically eat spicy foods are most likely to benefit from turning the heat up a notch. Capsaicin seems to affect metabolism by raising body temperature, which uses up more energy,” Web MD.

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Cayenne Pepper and Tabasco Sauce– According to Scientists at the Laval University in Quebec, participants who took cayenne pepper for breakfast were found to have less appetite, leading to less caloric intake throughout the day. Cayenne is also a great metabolic-booster, aiding the body in burning excess amounts of fats because metabolic rate and fat burning ability is increased by up to 25%.

Cumin– According to a study at the University of Chicago, cumin increases metabolism, especially when used in curry spice blends. It is also high in Iron which directly affects the level of energy you have, in turn helping you exercise more or less. Many people do not get enough Iron in their daily diet which can cause fatigue and/ or Iron deficiency.

Mustard– In a British study, adding ordinary mustard to a meal caused the average metabolic rate of participants to increase by 25% and the effects lasted up to 3 hours. Mustard is high in fat, and while fat provides more calories than carbohydrates and protein, it can aid in dieting, as it induces feelings of fullness. Mustard is also high in dietary fiber which helps in digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer periods of time.

Turmeric– Turmeric helps with weight loss because it increases the activity of your metabolism for short bursts of time after you ingest it. According to LIVESTRONG, it also helps prevent weight gain after the initial weight has been lost (which is just as important). Turmeric prevents the re-growth of fat after weight loss by inhibiting the expansion and growth of fat tissue through the formation of new blood vessels.

Ginger– Has been shown to increase metabolic rate and decrease appetite. It also helps with digestion and regulating your body’s internal rhythm. Ginger is also used to inhibit nausea sometimes caused by car sickness. Not only is ginger an excellent flavor for tea, but we love putting it in our healthy smoothies!

Cinnamon– Researchers have found that using just ¼ to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon can increase your metabolism and improve your body’s ability to handle sugar by stimulating insulin activity. It is also a digestive aid which helps keep everything in your digestive system flowing smoothly. Cinnamon also helps increase energy levels and concentration which have positive effects when it comes to weight loss.

No one can promise weight loss. Consuming these spices is not a magic weight lose bullet. The best way to lose weight is talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re healthy enough to exercise. Once you do start exercising you have to burn more calories than you consume. But it can’t hurt to rev up your metabolism by adding some of these spices for a little extra burn effect (besides they help make your food taste so much better, too).


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10 Spices & Condiments To Keep In Your Kitchen

by Rocco DiSpirito  January 22, 2016

Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito’s latest book, The Negative Calorie Diet, is all about eating whole foods to fuel your metabolism. In this excerpt he talks spices — and the best ones to incorporate into your diet for maximum benefits.

Spices offer a variety of fat-burning and health-promoting benefits.

Here are my favorite “negative calorie” condiments and spices:

1. Cayenne pepper
Regarded across various cultures as a medicinal food for at least 9,000 years, cayenne pepper can rev up metabolism and boost fat-burning by up to 25 percent. Just remember: A little goes a long way!

2. Black pepper
This kitchen staple has a thermogenic effect and has been shown to help alleviate sluggish digestion. I strongly encourage you to keep a pepper mill filled with peppercorns and grind your pepper fresh for each use.

3. Turmeric
This bright orange spice has been valued for its medicinal properties for centuries. It has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels, boost fat-burning, keep blood sugar levels steady, and fight inflammation in the body.

4. Mustard
Whole-grain mustard (not honey mustard or any other sweetened mustards) adds flavor to many dishes and helps you feel full. Among condiments it has one of the highest metabolism-boosting effects.

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5. Horseradish
Oh, the things you can do with horseradish. I love it in a Bloody Mary, paired with roast beef, and stirred into cocktail sauce. I love it even more now that I know it can help to increase my fat burn and boost my metabolism.

6. Cinnamon
This sweet spice may delay the rate at which your stomach empties, meaning it can make you feel fuller for longer. It also lessens the production of insulin after you eat.

Insulin is the hormone that turns excess sugar into fat. Tamping down insulin production can mean less weight gain. Cinnamon is a natural way to sweeten your food, too, so you don’t have to rely on added sugar.

7. Ginger
In research, ginger has been shown to enhance thermogenesis and reduce feelings of hunger. Fresh is best. I prefer young ginger, which is just-harvested and moist with a pink tinge and mellow flavor. Look for it in Chinese markets in the spring and early summer. At other times, any fresh ginger from the supermarket will do.

8. Garlic
This common cooking ingredient is thermogenic, and thus helps speed up your metabolism. It can also cut blood pressure and does so by generating a substance called nitrous oxide, which can relax vessels, leading to decreased blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure and those with hypertension.

Garlic also helps normalize cholesterol; it acts like a natural detergent in the arteries by breaking up fat molecules.

9. Cardamom
This is a terrific detox spice. Cardamom, which can be bought ground or in pod form, has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural detoxifier, as a digestive aid, and even as an immunity booster. It tastes like a cross between citrus and pepper and is delicious in baked goods and Indian dishes.

10. Cumin
Popular in Indian, Mexican, South American, and Middle Eastern cuisines, cumin is one of the spices you will find in any curry blend. It has long been used as a digestive aid and adds a delicious, mildly spicy flavor to many dishes.

Excerpted from The Negative Calorie Diet


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5 Holiday Spices That Could Help Boost Health

The holidays are here, and we are all getting ready to head into the kitchen to make that favorite meal. Most of us associate holiday food with overindulgence and sneaking in ingredients that we would not normally eat. Thankfully, some holiday dishes are actually loaded with healthy ingredients. Many of the spices used around the holidays have unknown health benefits and should be enjoyed this holiday season. Use this list of holiday spices in your favorite dishes this season.

Cinnamon

Pumpkin pie, sweet potato soufflé and many other holiday desserts are home to this aromatic spice. Cinnamon is best known for its warming smell and helps us identify the arrival of the holiday season. Cinnamon has a number of health benefits, many of them stemming from compounds in cinnamon oil. There are two types of cinnamon, Cassia cinnamon which is more widely available, and Ceylon or Chinese cinnamon.

Derived from the bark of the cinnamon tree, cinnamon has been found to contain a high level of manganese, a mineral important in blood sugar regulation. In fact, cinnamon has been shown to lower glucose and lipid levels in diabetics. Cinnamon also has antimicrobial and anti fungal properties, with some studies showing that it is effective against candida. Finally, cinnamon may play a role in Alzheimer’s prevention. (1,2)

While the doses of cinnamon needed to exert a therapeutic effect can range from 6-10 grams, an amount tough to get in your favorite recipes, adding cinnamon through your favorite dishes can help to build that “healthy” factor in your holiday recipes.

Nutmeg

Originating in Indonesia, nutmeg is derived from a tree now found in the Caribbean and South India. Nutmeg is a high mineral spice, containing magnesium, potassium and zinc. It has been used as a brain booster, since two compounds derived from nutmeg, myristicin and macelignan, have been found to balance neural pathways and may be able to improve focus. The rich magnesium content of nutmeg has also been found to help with relaxation and sleep. (3)

There are many other home remedies associated with nutmeg, including using the spice as a pain reliever or for indigestion. Mixing nutmeg with some honey has been used to heal acne, while mixing with chick pea flour is thought to remove blackheads. Too many holiday sweets? Try using the essential oil to help boost focus.

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Ginger

One of the best known digestive aids, ginger contains the active compound gingerol, which has been shown to help indigestion, nausea and vomiting. This same compound also has anti-inflammatory properties, assisting in relief of joint pain and inflammation. (4)

Fresh ginger contains more active gingerol than dried ginger and can be kept in the fridge for up to three weeks or in the freezer for as long as six months. Add grated or sliced fresh ginger to your teas, sweets and stews to lower your inflammatory load this holiday season.

Star Anise

An original Chinese spice, star anise comes from the fruit of a tree in China. Chinese star anise is thought to have health benefits, while Japanese star anise is poisonous. The health benefits of star anise are traced back to the compound shikimic acid, which resembles the drug ostelmavir, used to fight the flu. Star anise has anti fungal and anti-candida properties as well.

Star anise is often used to flavor teas and desserts, while the essential oil is used in many perfumes. Consider adding this aromatic spice to your favorite holiday dishes to balance your sugar load and risk for Candida, a yeast that naturally occurs in our microbiome, but can get out of balance with overindulgence!

Cardamom

Both a digestive aid and an antiseptic, the essential oil of cardamom is one of the few spices that has high amounts of iron and manganese. The oil of cardamom can be used topically to heal infections and as an anesthetic. In many countries, the entire pod of cardamom was boiled with ginger and other spices to relieve digestive discomfort after dinner. (5)

Today, cardamom is used in many desserts, drinks and rice dishes throughout the Middle East. Add this spice to your kitchen cabinet and add the essential oil to your first aid kit.

Enjoy this holiday season and experiment with spices from around the world. These spices can help navigate the continuum between health and holiday excess, helping us all to have a healthy holiday season.

sources:
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26560460
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26475130

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25917324
4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26403321
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25593391

Posted: 12/03/2015    Tasneem Bhatia, M.D. 

Dr. Taz MD, Back to the Heart of Medicine. Best selling Author, Integrative Health Expert, Prevention/Wellness