Spice up your holidays

Spices are good for you

Contributed by Sonal Hill, MS, RD, LD

spicesCinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and peppermints. These are just some of the most popular spices used to complement holiday meals, drinks and desserts. Spices curb our desire for sugar and provide flavor without adding salt or fat. Many spices are also high in antioxidants, which are believed to play a role in preventing the development of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Rheumatoid arthritis – to name just a few. And some of our favorite holiday spices have health benefits as well. Here’s what a variety of studies have reported about each:

  • Cinnamon has been linked with lowering blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes.
  • Ginger has been shown to calm nausea and help with motion sickness.
  • Nutmeg regulates your gastrointestinal tract and promotes sleep.
  • Cloves contain a component that works as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Peppermint can calm an upset stomach and may also have cancer prevention properties.

But do it safely

recent report issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has many people asking me whether their favorite holiday recipes have the potential to make them sick. According to the report, 12 percent of U.S. spice imports are contaminated with bug parts, rodent hairs and other ingredients. FDA inspectors also reported that seven percent of spice imports were contaminated with salmonella. And while all of this may sound pretty unsavory, the good news is the study also reported that only a tiny fraction of the American public has gotten sick from spices.

In general, the amount of any spice eaten at a meal is very small, meaning people have less of a chance of getting sick from a contaminated spice than a contaminated fruit or vegetable, for example. But to avoid illness, be sure to add spices to your favorite recipes before you cook. And just like everything else in your life, moderation is key. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Bon appétit!

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