Food Facts: Spices

Cinnamon, garlic, nutmeg, vanilla, and ginger, as well as many other spices, characterize many of the holiday foods you consume. One reason that festive holiday foods are so popular is because of the savory spices that fill them! From adding flavoring to foods to having health benefits, spices are a great way to spice up your food.

Spices originate from tropical plants either in the bark and leaves, as well as many other parts of the plant; the location simply depends on the spice. They are added to foods to augment flavor without the addition of the fat and calories of butter, oil, or other dressings or marinades. Spices have been around since ancient times; they were used to embalm mummies in Egypt, spices were given as gifts to kings, and they were the center of trade for many countries, as well as had many other uses. Because of its’ history, the benefits of spices have long been debated. Spices were even used as medicines and aphrodisiacs in ancient times.

Recent research has shown that many spices have powerful health benefits that may surprise you. Cinnamon, for example, has been found to possibly reduce blood sugar levels, which can decrease the chances of someone developing diabetes. Its high polyphenol content, an antioxidant, is said to have the same, if not greater, antioxidant capacity of blueberries. Because of these findings, researchers are convinced that one teaspoon of cinnamon daily can greatly benefit your health. Besides cinnamon, ginger is also said to be filled with strong antioxidants. Ginger is also thought to help relieve inflammation in diseases like arthritis. These are not the only spices that have health benefits, the list is quite long; find out more about your favorite spice today!

The power of spices is something you may not have expected but the research and history of the use of spices definitely attests to their value. So, when you have the opportunity, spice up your food a little, you may be doing more than just stimulating your taste buds!



Discovery Health


UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library

United States Department of Agriculture


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