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Spice Up Your Life!

Cooking with spices like turmeric, cinnamon and peppers add more than flavor to foods

By Melanie Peters   |   August 26, 2014

There’s more to healthy eating than adhering to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s updated food pyramid. Food is one of life’s pleasures, but trying to get your daily dose of whole grains (6 oz.), vegetables (2.5 cups), fruits (2 cups), and lean proteins (5.5 oz) can turn eating into a chore. Adding good-for-you spices, like peppers, turmeric, and cinnamon are an easy way to keep healthy meals from becoming boring meals.


Peppers come in many shapes, colors and heat levels. While all peppers are good sources for vitamins A, C, folic acid and fiber, reaching for the hotter varieties may boost your health as well. A recent paper in The Journal of Clinical Investigation by UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers suggests that getting more capsaicin in your diet may decrease your risk of colorectal cancer.


Another spice that adds more than flavor to food is turmeric. Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is probably best known for giving mustard and curry powder its yellow color. Curcumin, the compound responsible for turmeric’s yellow color, has anti-inflammatory properties and has been prescribed for joint pain and other inflammatory ailments, such as arthritis.


And then there’s cinnamon. Despite its recent notoriety, recent studies show that adding cinnamon to your diet may help  control blood sugar.  Whether this benefit is best derived from cinnamon from Ceylon or the more common cassia cinnamon plant remains up for debate.

Here are some ideas for adding some spice to your culinary life:

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal:  A great way to start a cool fall day that provides a serving of whole grains and fruit (apples) with the added benefit of blood sugar-regulating cinnamon. 

Indian Mango Dal: Spiced with turmeric, this lentil dish is high in fiber and anti-inflammatory flavor. 

Southeastern Seasoned Catfish: Capsaicin from cayenne pepper provides heat to this easy and healthy dish while adding to your daily dose of protein.