We are living in a day and age where the pharmaceutical companies continue to dupe us into believing we need to ingest synthetic medications in order to get better. But did you ever stop to consider that perhaps the best medicine is prevention? Eating whole, organic foods has been found to result in better overall health, keeping a variety of conditions and diseases at bay. But as we all know, sometimes, no matter how good we think we are to our bodies, situations arise that affect our health.
Plenty of foods and spices serve as powerful medicines both in terms of prevention as well as healing. Used in ancient medicine long before money became the driving force that led an industry to control our wellbeing, they are buried beneath the advertisements and marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical giants, waiting for you to realize their true, beneficial properties. And while they may not be patented, or have multi-billion dollar human clinical trials to prove they can prevent and treat your ailments, they humbly exist nonetheless.
They’re growing in your backyard, sitting on your spice rack, tucked in a drawer of your refrigerator, waiting for you to appreciate them. Here are five examples of foods and spices that can serve you with their medicinal properties just as much as they can with their nutrition and taste.
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If you have issues with your blood sugar levels, you should be using cinnamon generously. A relatively inexpensive spice, it can be added to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, yogurt, or mixed into your stew or stir fry. Prolonged blood sugar instability can lead to diabetes, making regulation critical. Research has found that cinnamon extract is an insulin sensitizer, protects mesangial cells, decreases inflammatory markers, and lowers glucose, lipids, and blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help the body fight infections and repair tissue damage.
2. Coconut Oil
During a time when fat was frowned upon, coconut oil was on the bad list for its high saturated fat content, until people realized not all fat is created equal. Coconut oil is loaded with short and medium chain fatty acids—making it a go-to energy source. “MCTs are transported directly from the intestinal tract to the liver, where they’re likely to be directly burned off as fuel and raise the metabolic rate slightly,” explains researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge of Columbia University. It also contains no cholesterol, and has been shown to aid in weight loss by improving metabolic rates. Put a teaspoon in your coffee in the morning, add it to your smoothie, or, because it’s a high-burning fat, use it as an alternative cooking oil to your olive, corn, canola, or soybean oil. Coconut oil can also improve blood cholesterol levels and may lower your risk of heart disease. Furthermore, the lauric acid in coconut oil can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Ginger is one of the healthiest spices on the planet. This potent root can detoxify the body, improve circulation, and even act as an antibiotic. Most notably, ginger has been shown to reduce several aspects of inflammation, including swelling and joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. In fact, one study involving 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that those who took ginger extract had less pain and required less pain medication. It’s also been found to significantly alleviate nausea—from pregnant women to chemotherapy patients and everything in between. Ginger is a great additive to a variety of dishes, juices, and teas.
In the ancient Indian healing tradition, turmeric was named “Kanchani,” which translates to “Golden Goddess.” This important herb is often used to transform dishes into colorful concoctions of bold taste, but the health benefits will give you even more reason to incorporate it into your diet. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. This strong antioxidant is known for its inflammatory effects, which can be beneficial to the body in large amounts, most notably through turmeric extracts. Curcumin is also linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases. Research has also found that it is as effective as exercise in maintaining heart health to prevent heart disease, which is the biggest killer in the world. One study, among many, found that curcumin may be able to prevent and possibly even treat cancer.
Honey has been used as both food and medicine for centuries. High in beneficial plant compounds, it offers many health benefits. Used as an alternative to refined sugar, honey is great for sweetening beverages, used as a topping on toast, or supplementing meals. Honey can lower blood pressure, which is an important risk factor for heart disease. It can reduce total and LDL cholesterol while raising levels of HDL significantly, which is the good cholesterol. Research has also found that when applied to the skin, honey can be used as an effective treatment option for burns, wounds, and many other skin conditions.
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