5 Best Spice Blends with Benefits
By April Benshosan
Posh Spice, Sporty Spice, Scary Spice... Healthy Spice! Just like the beloved '90s girl group, spices can totally turn things from drab to fab and serve up some serious awesomeness, especially when combined.
People say "variety is the spice of life," so it's no secret that spices can lend some serious variety to even the blandest and most unappetizing dish. From turmeric's brainpower-boosting abilities to cayenne's fat-frying powers and cocoa's heart-healthy benefits, sprinkling the stuff into your meals can provide benefits beyond just better flavor. That's why we're fans of mixing multiple spices together to amp up their wholesome factor and help keep your body looking and feeling on point. So, go ahead and give some of the spice blends below a try. But before you do, make sure that none of these 3 Scary Ingredients Found In Your Spice Rack are sneaking their way into your flavorful fare!
Turmeric + Black Pepper
Here at Eat This, Not That!, we're some of turmeric's biggest fans. The golden spice's main antioxidant (curcumin) is responsible for its anti-inflammatory, immunity boosting, and memory-improving properties. But how can you ensure your body is absorbing all of these magical benefits? Just add black pepper! The piquant spice is proven to activate turmeric's bioavailability, which is a fancy way of saying how much of the turmeric your body actually absorbs after it's metabolized. Not only does black pepper allow your body to reap all of turmeric's plentiful benefits, black pepper is also quite good for you, too. Piperine, the powerful compound found in the peppery spice, has been used to treat multiple maladies from inflammation to tummy troubles. And according to recent animal studies, piperine may also be able to slow down adipogenesis, or the formation of fat cells, resulting in a cinched waist and lower body fat and cholesterol levels. (Psst! Not a fan of black pepper? Healthy fats also activate turmeric's bioavailability!)
Eat This! Tip
Scout out turmeric from Alleppey, which has double the amount of curcumin than turmeric from Madras. Since turmeric-in-the-raw tends to be a bit harsh on the palate, use it sparingly. Sprinkle it with black pepper in stews, stir-fry meals, and meat marinades. Yum!
Cinnamon + Sugar
While cinnamon and sugar team up as well as peanut butter and jelly, the sweet spice combo serves up way more benefits than your favorite childhood sammy. Sugar almost always elevates blood sugar levels (uh, duh!), but cinnamon boasts the heaven-sent powers of its polyphenols, which help stabilize blood sugar and shoo away pesky insulin spikes. Wanna hear something even sweeter? An animal study published in the journal of Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics reported that adding cinnamon to participants' diets resulted in decreased belly fat.
Eat This! Tip
While this news may motivate you to toast up an empty-carb-laden cinnamon raisin bagel (and maybe even slather it in butter while you're at it), that's definitely not your best bet. Opt for sweetening your fiber-rich morning oatmeal with natural sugars like honey or agave and then sprinkling some cinnamon on top to balance it out. Unlike the bagel, oatmeal is a resistant starch that will digest slowly and keep you fuller.
Ginger + Matcha
Mix these two powerhouses together and what do you get? Nothing less than a balanced, Asian-inspired spice blend that's infinitely better than that bottle of abandoned teriyaki sauce in your fridge.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years to banish digestion issues and settle an upset stomach. And nowadays, thanks to modern medicinal studies, we know that the benefits of ginger are due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-disease antioxidants called gingerols. In fact, ginger goes as far as helping to prevent and treat motion sickness and arthritis. Research also shows that ginger is a potent muscle relaxant and can help reduce post-workout soreness by up to 25 percent, as well as banish bloat, helping you look extra lean after that ab workout.
Ginger, just like matcha green tea, has been shown to de-bloat the tummy. And matcha especially has been praised for blessing its drinkers with bikini-ready bodies. In fact, a Taiwanese study revealed that participants who regularly drank the green tea had nearly 20 percent less body fat than the non-imbibers. And in a Swedish study, people who replaced water with green tea noticed reduced hunger than those who didn't fill up on the stuff. So what's the secret? EGCG, a metabolism-boosting nutrient in green tea, amps up the breakdown of fat while blocking fat cell formation.
Eat This! Tip
A super easy way to get your daily dose of both spices is by sipping on our all-time favorite hot beverage. You guessed it: tea. Brew a cup of matcha and then drop in a sliver of fresh ginger into the boiling water. Another tasty liquid alternative? Give your breakfast smoothie some punch with a few shakes of ginger and matcha powder.
Cocoa + Chili
Believe it or not, the main ingredient in your favorite bar of dark chocolate packs in some serious punch. Plenty of studies show that cocoa can help control diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and even Alzheimer's. Plus, a study printed in the Circulation Heart Failure journal revealed that women who enjoyed just one to two servings of high-quality chocolate on a weekly basis had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure than their non-indulging counterparts.
And women aren't the only lucky ones. Another study showed that men who consumed about 1/3 of a cup of dark chocolate chips weekly reduced their risk of stroke by 17 percent! All these body-worthy benefits can be chalked up to polyphenols and flavanols—the heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory compounds found in the sweet spice. We're definitely in love with the cocoa.
Stirring up a mug of hot chocolate? Ward of the winter chill even more by adding some chili to the cup. Not only will it amp up your chocolate's flavor, but it'll also lend it some serious flat belly benefits. Capsaicin, the compound that endows chili with its notorious kick, is linked to increasing body heat and metabolic rate while decreasing appetite. In fact, Canadian researchers discovered that men who munched on zesty appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at subsequent meals. But this doesn't mean you should douse your apps in the red spicy stuff; researchers at Purdue University found that just about a 1/2 teaspoon was enough to help keep belly bulge at bay. Researchers admit that capsaicin can help weight loss efforts by messing with the key proteins found in fat, which is why they're planning to transform its powers into pill form to help fight obesity. Now that sounds promising!
Eat This! Tip
While Lindt's chili dark chocolate bar seems like a convenient pick, we're not fans of its first ingredient: sugar. For a better-for-you blend, choose Lindt's 85% Cocoa Excellence bar (a healthy snack we love) and then sprinkle some organic chili powder on top. The chocolate in this bar isn't alkalized, which means that it's not stripped of the cocoa's natural bitterness, benefits, and high fiber content. Since this dark bar is not milky-sweet like other chocolate bars (it boasts a mere five grams of sugar per serving), complementing a few squares with chili will delightfully balance out any bold bitterness.
Cayenne + Cumin
Fiery cayenne is actually pure chili that's ground up from the emoji-inspired cayenne chili pepper. So, it may not surprise you that it's a great weight loss effort-booster. Just as mentioned above, capsaicin (found in cayenne) has been proven to reduce abdominal fat by controlling appetite and boosting the body's thermogenesis (its ability to burn food as energy).
Contrary to common belief, spicy capsaicin-containing foods can't actually keep you warm. Their ability to break you into a sweat means that the compound cools you down instead. Shocking, right? Cumin, on the other hand, serves up all the heat you need—minus the flushed face.
Eat This! Tip
Cayenne and cumin go hand-in-hand in many savory dishes like stews, soups, chilis, and can even lend some sophisticated flavor notes to your regular ol' lunch sammy.
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