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The Spicy Way to Lose Weight
Healthy Benefits of Spicing Up Food

Add spices to your meals to boost weight loss.
Add spices to your meals to boost weight loss.

Spices are one of the tools I suggest people try when they're looking to lose weight. The easy way to make something taste better is to add salt, sugar or fat. But each of those options can cause problems, especially when eaten in the levels we do in modern society.

Mixing spices in a dish perks up the flavor and turns something that might be healthy but boring, into food you want to eat. There's also a secondary effect. Many spices have health benefits when you consume them regularly. Here are four spices that'll add a little zing to your food and some of the things they're known to help with.

Ceylon Cinnamon
(Not Cassia Cinnamon or Chinese Cinnamon.)

Try it sprinkled over toast, mixed in with oatmeal, stirred into soups and stews. Mix half a teaspoon into ground coffee before your brew it. It's also great in marinades or mixed into baked goods.

Adults should consider getting about a teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon a day. In a review of the "Bioactivity of cinnamon" for the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition in 2012, the authors conclude that the therapeutic potential of cinnamon includes its, "anti-microbial, anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-tumour, blood pressure-lowering, cholesterol and lipid-lowering and gastro-protective properties."

For people with diabetes, talk to your doctor first. The blood sugar lowering properties of cinnamon have produced mixed results in clinical trials and may not be as beneficial as once hoped.

Turmeric

It's often found in Indian recipes and mixes well with curry dishes. Add it to chicken, rice and marinades.

The active component in turmeric is called curcumin. When about a teaspoon of turmeric a day is consumed it lowers the DNA mutating ability of cancer-causing agents, it acts as an anti-inflammatory and it may help people who sit all day for work.

In a clinical study published in 2012 in Nutrition Research, researchers divided subjects between three groups of women. One group took curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) for 8 weeks, one group engaged in moderate aerobic exercise training for 8 weeks and the control group did nothing.

Before and after each intervention, researchers measured something called "flow-mediated dilation." As we age, the flow of blood through our bodies diminishes, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers measured how much blood flow was increased after taking curcumin, after aerobic exercise and after doing nothing.

The final results showed, "Flow-mediated dilation increased significantly and equally in the curcumin and exercise groups, whereas no changes were observed in the control group." That means taking turmeric (which contains curcumin) can improve circulation, nearly as much as moderate aerobic exercise. But don't give up cardio exercises. Further studies show that aerobic exercises and turmeric COMBINED improve circulation better than either one on their own.

Cocoa Powder

When you get up, reduce your risk of heart attack by 50%. People who eat chocolate are half as likely to die of cardiovascular disease as the non-chocolate eaters, but eating a fat filled chocolate bar isn't the way to do it.

Simply add a heaping teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to your coffee. (Cocoa is the ingredient that provides the benefit.) Then mix in a little Splenda or stevia sweetener. It's a heart healthy and delicious way to start the day.

Garlic

While it's actually a vegetable, it's often mixed into dishes like a spice. It's a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, calcium, manganese and selenium.

The phytonutrients in garlic help protect against DNA damage caused by cancerous agents. Cooked meat has the chemical PhIP that literally breaks up DNA. But when that chemical is matched up with garlic, damage drops significantly. It's also been shown to boost immunity and help reduce blood pressure. Add garlic to sauces, mix it in salads or use it to liven up meats.

BONUS ITEM: Flaxseed.

No it's not a spice, but it may help prevent a heart attack. In a 2013 study researchers wanted to see the effects of eating a little flaxseed (30 g) every day for six months. So they took 110 people and gave half of them milled flaxseed and half of them a fake substitute. It was a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, the gold standard of clinical trials.

At the end of the six month trial, participants who ATE the flaxseed saw a drop in their systolic blood pressure by 10 points and their diastolic number by about 7 points.

That may not seem like a big deal. But it translates into a 46 percent reduction in stroke risk and a 29 percent reduction in heart disease. For participants who started out with systolic numbers over 140, they got a 15-point drop.

Flaxseed can easily be mixed into morning oatmeal, added to soups, sprinkled over salads or mixed into patties, meatloaf and casseroles. It has a slight "nutty" flavor that's barely perceptible.

Get even more benefits from spices like ginger, sage, peppers, rosemary, peppermint, and cumin. Look for recipes that feature these spices and add them to your meal plan.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

2/25/2017