Seasonings and spices are an essential part of virtually anyone's diet, but were you aware of the significant health benefits of spices? Herbs and spices have incredible nutritional value because they're nature's richest sources of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are nutrient compounds found in virtually all plant foods (and also manufactured in your body). Antioxidants can be vitamins, minerals, or other phytochemicals (plant chemicals).
The primary job of antioxidants is to protect your cells against oxidative stress from free radical damage. Free radicals are highly-reactive oxygen molecules in your cells, created as a byproduct of your metabolism; a surplus of free radicals is considered to be the primary cause of the aging process.
Protecting yourself against free radicals with antioxidants is the most effective way to reduce the risk of many health problems associated with aging. The benefits of antioxidants include powerful protection against all types of degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, and many more.
The best way to obtain a wide variety of antioxidants is to eat an extensive selection of antioxidant-rich foods. As a general rule of thumb, deeply-colored or strongly-flavored fruits and vegetables contain the greatest quantity and variety of antioxidants.
However, it's little-known that culinary herbs and spices have far greater concentrations of antioxidants than any common fruit or vegetable. Spices typically contain a particularly wide variety of antioxidants as well, which makes them effective at fighting many different kinds of free radicals in different parts of your body.
There is a large amount of scientific evidence for the health benefits of spices. Almost all spices contain chemicals that help to protect the body from illnesses and, in many cases, they can be used as effective treatments for existing diseases. In addition, some of the chemicals found in spices act as adaptogens, natural products that increases the body’s resistance to stress.
The health benefits of spices becomes quite apparent when you look at studies of different cultures around the world. Typically, countries where people consume lots of spicy foods on a daily basis also have very low incidences of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and most other degenerative diseases that have been so common in the United States and other western cultures.
India is one such country. The very low rates for degenerative diseases there has been partly attributed to the natives' spicy diet. A typical adult living in India consumes almost ten grams of spices per day, compared to one gram or less in a typical Western diet!
Although all spices are good sources of antioxidants, those richest in these substances are allspice, garlic, ginger, clove, cinnamon, lemon balm, oregano, peppermint, sage and thyme. Some, like ginger, contain over 25 different antioxidants all by themselves!
It would be a mistake to assert that any one antioxidant is more powerful than any other, however. Antioxidants work together, and each one has its own specific characteristics and benefits. One antioxidant may work in places in the body that another one can't, and neutralize free radicals that other antioxidants miss. Therefore, getting the widest variety of antioxidants is just as important as how much of any one antioxidant you get.
Fresh herbs and spices are best, of course. However, especially if you're going to use spices for their health benefits, you may need to use dried or supplement varieties. Those small bottles of dried spices that you find at the supermarket won't go very far — and will cost much more than if you buy in bulk.
Most conventional dried spices are irradiated in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses that might be present. Irradiation, however, also damages the integrity of the food — vitamins, minerals, proteins and other beneficial micronutrients. In addition, irradiation also creates more free radicals, just the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish by eating spices.
Fortunately, I've got a wonderful online source for
premium-quality organic spices — Starwest Botanicals.
Starwest Botanicals started as a small retail herb shop in 1975 in Sacramento, California. From the beginning, their focus has been on quality; they source their products directly from around the world and process them in-house with their own herb mill to have more control over the finished product.
The Starwest company actively supports sustainable organic farming; as much as possible, they select ingredients from natural renewable sources and use renewable sources of energy.
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