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Dr. Sharon Ufberg

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5 Healing Spices for Your Health

Posted: 06/ 9/11 08:48 AM ET

Want to pump up your healing potential? Are you ready to add some spice to your life? I mean literally -- add spices to your daily health regimen to prevent and treat the chronic diseases plaguing us. High in powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, spices are a perfect way to add new flavor to your favorite dishes while guarding your health. There is plenty of scientific research worldwide to confirm the use of culinary spices to boost your healing power.

So what exactly is a spice? It is not an herb. A spice may come from the seed, root, leaf, stem, flower, bud, bark or fruit of a plant. Spices are formerly leaves of herbs left to dry; they tend to be aromatic and add flavor to recipes. One big difference to remember is that spices are all edible while some herbs are not.

Here are five spices that you can start adding to your diet today:

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Turmeric is used widely in India and gives a beautiful yellow color to any dish. This powerhouse spice has been getting lots of press lately for its potential healing properties. The active ingredient, curcurmin, has been extensively tested and studied and the research touts the outstanding results: it's a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric is also known as the anti-cancer spice because of the wide range of potent properties this spice possesses. It is found in virtually all curry recipes.

Add turmeric to your cooking oil when frying onions or sautéing vegetables for stews or in any stir-fry dish. Once it starts to heat up you should smell a distinct and pleasant aroma. If no smell arises, then your turmeric is probably too old and it's time to buy a fresh supply.

Take note: Curry powder is a mix of common Indian spices that often combines turmeric with coriander (the dried seed of the same plant as the leaf herb cilantro), cumin, fenugreek and black pepper. This easy to use powder mix is not used in India or Asia, but has been created by the West for cooking convenience. The amount of each ingredient varies by brand but for maximum health benefit, I recommend adding spices individually to a recipe -- that way you can control the quantity and quality of each spice. Keep in mind, true curry dishes vary greatly in flavor profile so one generic mix will not suit all recipes.
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It is easy to jump in and add some spice to your life -- most spices can be found at a conventional supermarket. I recommend seeking out the smaller, local ethnic markets where spices can be found depending on their cultural origins. It is also the perfect place to learn how the spices are used and get tips on what spices are traditionally used together. If you live out in the country, there are now many online spice markets available that have every possible exotic spice for you, too.

So tonight add a new spice to your dinner menu. I highly recommend getting a copy of my new favorite book, "Healing Spices" by Bharat Aggarwal, PhD with Debora Yost.

Here's to you taking charge of your health! Can't wait to hear how you spice up your life.
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