I want to share with you a few of the foods and spices I consume on a regular basis, as I truly believe in their potential and proven health effects. I believe in natural medicine and avoid using over the counter drugs. Below are some of my favourites with information regarding how they may help the human body.
Garlic – Can be used as a natural antibiotic and antibacterial agent. It has also been suggested that it may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels; but the results are not conclusive. It may be due to the fact garlic is also an antioxidant; this property may prevent cholesterol from building up in the arteries.
When buying garlic, make sure the heads are dry and have plenty of white papers covering it. If there are green shoots growing from the garlic, it is likely old. However if you have some at home with shoots beginning to grow you can still use it – just cut them off and remove it from the middle of the bulb.
Onion – Very similar to garlic, as they are both part of the Allium vegetable family. This family of vegetables are rich in sulfur-containing compounds which give them their distinct odors. They are a packed full of polyphenols (anti-oxidants), including flavonoid polyphenols. This is important to human health as they have been reported to have antiviral, anti-allergic, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant activities.
When picking out onions, choose ones that are clean and well-shaped with no openings around the neck. Avoid ones with mold, soft spots, moisture around the neck, and dark patches. Onions should be stored in a well-ventilated space and do not need to be refrigerated.
Tumeric – Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant. It may also help boost brain power though the increase of a type of growth hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain. Other claims include: prevention of cancers, lowers risk of heart disease, and possible benefits against depression.
The curcumin levels in turmeric are unfortunately low. It may be a better idea to supplement with a curcumin extract to experience its full effects. Taking it with a fatty meal is also a good idea, since curcumin is fat soluble. Keep using turmeric though!
Cinnamon – It is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree and can be bought ground or in “quill” form. Cinnamon can help control blood sugar levels, reducing the rise of blood sugar after eating. In humans with type II diabetes, consuming as little as 1 gram of cinnamon per day was found to reduce blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol, in a study published in the December 2003 issue of Diabetes Care. It may also improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels. Cinnamon has anti-clotting actions due to the cinnaldehyde found in cinnamon which helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets. It is also considered anti-microbial since it has the ability to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Cinnamon powder has a stronger flavor while the sticks can be stored for longer. Cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a dark, cool and dry place. Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about one year stored this way. You can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.
ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER BEFORE SUPPLEMENTING WITH ANYTHING NEW. SUPPLEMENTING WITH ANY OF THE ABOVE FOODS MAY HAVE ADVERSE EFFECTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY TAKING MEDICATION(S).