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Can You Name Four of the Healthiest, Tastiest Spices?

A Nepalese spice vendor waits for customers at Ason market in Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Ason is one the busiest and oldest market in Katmandu. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

A Nepalese spice vendor waits for customers at Ason market in Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Ason is one the busiest and oldest market in Katmandu. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

Here in the United States, there is a saying: “Diversity is the spice of life.”

This means that having a nice, healthy mix of people, thoughts, and experiences can make your life more interesting and, well, spicy.

Spices do the same with our meals. Every country uses spices to make cooking distinct.

Centuries ago, some spices were quite valuable. They were used as currency throughout the world. These days, most spices are reasonably priced and easy to find in stores. But they are still extremely valuable when it comes to keeping us healthy.

As with many traditional or natural cures, there is little scientific evidence to prove spices have healing qualities. The U.S. National Institutes of Health says it is possible that spices have health benefits. But there is not enough strong evidence to confirm such claims.

However, it does not hurt anything to add a few spices to your diet. So, here are four of the healthiest and tastiest spices.

1. Ginger

From India to Japan to China, ginger is popular in many food dishes.



Ginger has a hot, fragrant flavor. You can add ground ginger to many dishes, baked products and smoothies or other thick drinks. You can grate fresh ginger root, adding the small pieces to your favorite dishes. Candied ginger is a popular treat in many countries.

Besides tasting great, ginger helps the body in many ways. Researchers have studied the anti-inflammatory qualities of ginger. An anti-inflammatory reduces swelling – the enlargement of a body part, often resulting from a build-up of fluid. So, ginger may help reduce pain in muscles and joints after you exercise.

Thai researchers found that healthy, middle-aged women who took a ginger supplement every day for two months improved their mental ability. These women had a greater attention span and scored higher on memory tests than women who took a harmless substance or placebo.

Ginger is a well-known cure for nausea, motion sickness and pregnancy-related health disorders. There is some evidence that ginger might help cure joint and muscle pain. And drinking tea with ginger root can reduce sore throat pain.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is the main spice in curry and a relative of ginger.



As a traditional medicine, many cultures use turmeric to fight depression, liver disease and skin disorders. This information comes from the U.S. National Institutes for Health.

There is no hard-and-fast proof that spices fight disease. But the NIH says there is research showing that turmeric has helped patients with arthritis and indigestion, or heartburn.

Some Indian researchers claim that a chemical in turmeric called curcumin can slow or stop the growth of tumor cells. They say it also can suppress enzymes that activate cancer-causing agents.

3. Cumin

One tablespoon of cumin seeds can supply 22 percent of your daily requirement for iron. Iron helps keep your energy levels high and strengthens the body’s natural defenses against disease.

According to early research, cumin may also improve your brainpower: In an animal study, cumin extract was shown to improve performance on memory tests.

Cumin may help people with diabetes by keeping their blood sugar level in check. It may also have powerful germ-fighting qualities.

4. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a common spice. It adds a warm, sweet taste to both sweet and savory dishes.

Cinnamon is one of many spices with strong antioxidants.

Cinnamon is one of many spices with strong antioxidants.

There are two main kinds of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is considered by many to be true cinnamon. And it can be very pricey. Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon generally costs less than Ceylon cinnamon. This is the kind that we put on top of coffee or hot chocolate. Cinnamon is also found in many baked goods here in the United States.

According the National Institutes of Health, cinnamon has been used as a spice and traditional herbal medicine for centuries.

The NIH website says there is research to suggest that cinnamon, like cumin, may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon may also reduce cholesterol levels, help to reduce inflammation and kill germs that cause disease.

These are only four of the many spices used around the world to flavor our food and possibly keep us healthy.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Let us know about your favorite spice in the Comments Section and on our Facebook page.

Anna Matteo wrote this article for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

distinct adj. noticeably different

affordable adj. to be able to pay for (something)

fragrant adj. having a pleasant and usually sweet smell

flavor n. the quality of something that you can taste : a particular type of taste : a good or appealing taste

in check idiomatic expression : under control

savory adj. having a spicy or salty quality without being sweet

placebo n. medicine : a pill or substance that is given to a patient like a drug but that has no physical effect on the patient

nausea n. the feeling you have in your stomach when you think you are going to vomit

hard-and-fast adj. used to say that something (such as a rule) cannot be changed

indigestion n. an unpleasant feeling (such as pain or a burning sensation) in your stomach or chest that is caused by difficulty in digesting food

heartburnn. an unpleasant hot feeling in your chest caused by something that you ate

suppressv. to restrain from a usual course or action : to inhibit the growth or development of

activate v. to make active or more active

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