Better taste, better health

How Herbs and Spices Keep You Healthy

by Debra Karplus, MS, OTR/L

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Sugar and spice make all things nice; you've certainly heard that expression. Indeed, sugar does make most any foods more enticing, but definitely is lacking as far as anything positive toward good health. In fact, excess sugar consumption can contribute to obesity, tooth decay, and numerous other more serious maladies. You've likely heard about many studies that substantiate that theory.

Spices, on the other hand, are a wonderful culinary substitute for salt, a major factor in hypertension (high blood pressure). Herbs and spices make meals tastier and are typically inexpensive, partly because they are purchased and used in relatively small quantities. Have you considered maintaining an inventory of herbs and spices in your kitchen as an affordable and alternative way to keep yourself in tip-top shape?

Garnishing your diet with garlic makes good sense.

If you peruse any of the dietary self-help books at the local bookstore or public library, or search online, you'll quickly discover why pharmacies, supermarkets, and natural food stores stock various forms of garlic on their shelves. People knowledgeable about alternative remedies know that garlic use touts better health with its immune boosting qualities and beneficial impact on heart disease, specifically lowering blood pressure.

Avid gardeners will tell you that it's easy to grow garlic. And, most any grocery will sell fresh garlic in its produce section. Garlic is delicious in many cooked dishes and sauces. Dried garlic can also be purchase in a small bottle or in bulk, as garlic powder or garlic flakes.

But, if you don't want to breathe that somewhat pleasant but often offensive garlic scent and want to continue to be socially well-connected, you may opt for garlic in its supplement form, such as a capsule. Read the label and ask the pharmacist what is the recommended daily dosage. Check out and other websites to learn more about how garlic can be used medicinally.

Turmeric and ginger are inflammation inhibitors to include in your diet.

Arthritis and bursitis sufferers as well as anyone with any of the "itis" conditions may already know that that word suffix refers to an inflammation. Numerous diseases and disorders are the result of an inflammation somewhere in the body. You may be able to reduce some of those aches and pains with the use of turmeric or ginger.

Turmeric is that yellowish spice that is a main ingredient in curry. It adds nice flavor to soups and casseroles. Ginger is quite versatile for reducing inflammation. Additionally, ginger claims to have some qualities to alleviate motion sickness and morning sickness and some other dietary concerns, not to mention that it's yummy. Find it in its raw form in the supermarket produce section, ground in the spice aisle, or in supplement form at the pharmacy. Learn more about turmeric and ginger at or

Cinnamon can challenge cardiac causes.

Is there any dessert that doesn't taste better topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon? Purchased in powdered form or as a cinnamon stick, or in capsule form with the supplements at your nearby drugstore, and other websites have convincing evidence that cinnamon helps to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol. Add to toast, yogurt, hot cocoa, coffee, or other hot beverage to give it a little more zing. Learn why and how to add cinnamon to your meals.

Mint can alleviate many medical maladies.

Whether served fresh as a garnish in salads or desserts or used in its dried form, mint has been known to help reduce infections and improve digestion. Peppermint is said to be more healing than spearmint. Both are easy to grow at home, but mint plants spread quickly and can take over a garden so carefully choose where you will plant it.

Most people appreciate the ease of buying dried mint in bulk or in tea bags. It makes a tasty hot beverage or can be enjoyed iced, with or without sweetening. Most supermarkets stock some varieties in boxed tea bags near the coffee aisle. Many websites have useful information about the health benefits of mint, such as

Enjoying beverages and foods that are scrumptious, while improving your overall well-being, is certainly a winning combination. The herbs and spices mentioned here, and a plethora of others, are an affordable and smart way to improve your health. Consult with your physician or pharmacist if you have concerns about interaction of spices with any of the medications you currently use. Taking ownership of your health is essential because if you don't care about your health, then who will?

Reviewed July 2017

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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