Spices, Herbs Surprisingly Rich In Antioxidants, Like Fruits

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When you hear the word "antioxidants" mentioned, what foods immediately come to mind? Blueberries? Pomegranates? How about cinnamon?

That's right, when it comes to antioxidant prowess, just one teaspoon of cinnamon vies for top billing along with a half cup of blueberries and one cup of pomegranate juice. Surprising to some, spices and herbs are extremely rich in antioxidants -- with levels comparable to many fruits and vegetables, including today's popular "super foods."(1)

Nutritionists have long recommended spices and herbs as a way to add flavor without fat, salt or sugar -- making it easier to meet today's dietary guidelines. But now studies suggest adding more spices and herbs to your diet may not only please your palate, it could enhance your health.

"It's the ultimate in good nutrition news when adding a favorite ingredient increases the health benefits of the foods we're already enjoying," said nutrition expert Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of the newest edition of The SuperFoodsRx series, The SuperFoodsRx Diet: Lose Weight with the Power of SuperNutrients. "Using more spices and herbs is an easy, simple step that everyone can take to help improve the overall quality of their diet."

To make it easy -- and delicious -- to enjoy the potential benefits of spices, McCormick has created a unique collection of new recipes, specially designed to deliver up to half a teaspoon of antioxidant-rich spices per serving.

The Original Functional Foods?

In many cultures throughout history, spices and herbs have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Only recently have scientists turned their attention to the potential health benefits of spices and herbs. "The study of spices is a relatively new area of nutrition science investigation, but one that holds great promise. What is especially encouraging is that the spice amounts being studied are reasonable for culinary usage," said Dr. Bazilian.

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Researchers are investigating the unique protective properties of spices and herbs, and their role in possibly reducing inflammation. Inflammation has been identified as a precursor to many chronic diseases. Other researchers are exploring the potential of spices to boost metabolism, promote satiety, aid weight management and enhance the overall quality of the diet. To advance the science of spices and herbs, McCormick created the McCormick Science Institute, an independent research organization supported by McCormick & Company, Inc.

Many spices and herbs appear to have some beneficial effects, but seven Super Spices that may hold the greatest potential to improve our health include:

-- Cinnamon
-- Ginger
-- Oregano
-- Red Peppers (including cayenne, crushed red pepper and paprika)
-- Rosemary
-- Thyme
-- Turmeric (commonly found in yellow curry powder)

More Reasons to Season

Botanically, spices and herbs are classified as fruits and vegetables. That's why these plant-derived ingredients are naturally high in antioxidants. And, since they no longer contain the water that makes up a significant part of the weight of fresh produce, spices and herbs offer a big antioxidant punch in a very compact package. Spices and herbs also are rich in phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids and other phenolics, which possess health-promoting properties beyond antioxidation.

To help enjoy the taste and health benefits of the Super Spices throughout the course of the day, Dr. Bazilian recommends these simple tips:

-- At breakfast, sprinkle cinnamon on your bowl of oatmeal, yogurt, French toast or muffin batter. A dash of thyme is a welcome addition to scrambled eggs or omelets.

-- At lunch, stir dried oregano leaves or red peppers into favorite canned soups, chicken/tuna salads or vinaigrette dressings. Even frozen pizza can get a delicious antioxidant boost. A sprinkling of ground ginger over sliced fresh fruit makes a refreshing dessert.

-- At dinner, wake up the flavors of favorite side dishes with crushed rosemary leaves (a natural with mashed or roasted potatoes) or curry powder (perfect for rice dishes or couscous.)

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