Not too long ago, I posted about a new study showing that turmeric can help increase calorie burn. Last week, the spice popped up again, this time as a cancer-fighter. Publishing in the British Journal of Cancer scientists at the Cork Cancer Research Center were able to show that turmeric can attack and kill cancer cells in as little as 24 hours. Not only that, turmeric’s mere presence seems to trigger “cell death signals,” a reaction that prompts the cancer cells to turn inward and start to digest themselves.
Interesting stuff. Here’s some more: Spices of all sorts are included in the 2009 Mediterranean Diet Pyramid under the category “base every meal on these foods.” Also recently, the USDA has started to add spices to its nutrient database–a pretty vivid reflection of how our thinking about this category has evolved.
The most sweeping health benefits substantiating all this fanfare seem to come in the form of antioxidants. Studies have shown that just a half teaspoon of dried oregano is as rich a source of them as three cups of fresh spinach. Likewise, a teaspoon of dried ginger has an amount comparable to a serving of tomatoes or green pepper, while a teaspoon of ground cinnamon or cloves has about the same level as a helping of blueberries, cranberries, or raspberries. Drawing on this sort of information, some researchers have gone so far as to claim that we can double or even triple the health value of a meal just by seasoning it liberally.
Among other kinds of potential gains, a new UCLA study found that seasoning hamburgers with a blend of paprika, cumin, ginger, garlic, oregano, and rosemary reduced the amount of oxidized fat formed on the meat by 70 percent. Also, according to scientists at Kansas State University, spice rubs seem to reduce the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), suspected carcinogens that form in muscle foods during grilling or high-temperature cooking. French researchers, for their part, have been able to reduce fatty artery deposits in rats by 26 percent by feeding them a diet high in curry. And a new study from Baylor University suggests that cinnamon can even help mitigate insulin resistance.
As I was putting together this information, I came across a few useful links I thought I’d pass along. Wellsphere has a really helpful post that includes some easy “things to do” with turmeric–like adding it to sauteed apples. The editors at Health have assembled a comprehensive list of spices, their health benefits, and tips on how to use–sage, for example, is tough to overcook. Lastly, a nutritionist is claiming to have cooked up the “world’s healthiest curry;” you can read about it (and get the recipe) on The Telegraph‘s website.