These Spices May Reduce the Risk of Cancer

spices to reduce the risk of cancer

If you are watching the amount of sodium in your diet, you are probably interested in learning more about flavoring foods with herbs and spices. What you may not already know, is that some of these flavorings are not only tasty, but also very good for your health.

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Just about all of us have one thing in common – most of us eat too much salt. Most of the sodium, 75% in fact, comes from eating processed foods. Eating fresh, homemade foods is one of the best ways to reduce sodium intake, as long as you also keep the salt shaker in the cabinet.

Herbs and spices are not only very flavorful additions to fresh foods. Most of them have very important health benefits.

Take parsley and dill, for example. A recent study has found that a particular agent within these spices may have anti-cancer benefits. Glaziovianin A is an isoflavone found within these plants that Russian scientists have recently isolated and are studying for its potential use as a pharmaceutical agent.

While the research is still very early, glaziovianin A seems to have antitumor effects in several human cancers, including lung, melanoma, prostate, breast, colon, and ovarian.

But while it may be tempting, based on this early study, to go out and buy pills made with dried parsley or dill, the very best nutrition advice is to utilize these plants in their natural state. Remember that many dietary supplements are not regulated and they may not contain what they say they contain.

Plus whole foods, including herbs and spices, have many beneficial compounds – some of which we are just learning about.

About Parsley

Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. It is a rich source of anti-oxidant nutrients including luteolin which may help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. Parsley is also a good source of vitamin C and Vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene).

Whenever possible, choose fresh parsley over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. Choose fresh parsley that is deep green in color and looks fresh and crisp. Avoid bunches that have leaves that are wilted or yellow as this indicates that they are either over-mature or damaged. Fresh parsley should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile. Place it in a bowl of cold water and swish it around with your hands to allow any sand or dirt to dislodge. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill it with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water.

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How to Enjoy Parsley:
• Combine chopped parsley with bulgur wheat, chopped green onions (scallions), mint leaves, lemon juice and olive oil to make the Middle Eastern classic dish, tabouli.
• Add parsley to pesto sauce to add more texture to its green color.
• Combine chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, and use it as a rub for chicken, lamb and beef.
• Use parsley in soups and tomato sauces.
• Serve a colorful salad of fennel, orange, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and parsley leaves.
• Chopped parsley can be sprinkled on a host of different recipes, including salads, vegetable sautés and grilled fish.

About Dill

Dill is native to southern Russia, western Africa and the Mediterranean region. The seeds are stronger and more flavorful than the leaves and are most commonly associated with the cuisines of Scandinavia and Germany. Its green leaves are wispy and fernlike and have a soft, sweet taste.

Dill's unique health benefits come from two types of anti-oxidant nutrients: monoterpenes, including carvone, limonene, and anethofuran; and flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin. The volatile oils within dill are also chemoprotective, meaning that it may help neutralize particular types of carcinogens (cancer-promoting agents.)

Dill, surprisingly, is also a very good source of calcium plus other minerals such as manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also a good source of dietary fiber.

Again, it is best to choose fresh over dried for the best possible flavor. The leaves of fresh dill should look feathery and green in color. Dill leaves that are a little wilted are still acceptable since they usually droop very quickly after being picked.

Fresh dill should always be stored in the refrigerator either wrapped in a damp paper towel or with its stems placed in a container of water. Since it is very fragile, even if stored properly, dill will only keep fresh for about two days. Dill can be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers. Dried dill seeds should be stored in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep fresh for about six months.

How to Enjoy Dill:
• Combine dill weed with plain yogurt and chopped cucumber for a delicious cooling dip.
• Use dill when cooking fish, especially salmon and trout, as the flavors complement one another very well.
• Use dill weed as a garnish for sandwiches.
• Since dill seeds were traditionally used to soothe the stomach after meals, place some seeds in a small dish and place it on the dinner table for all to enjoy.
• Add dill to your favorite egg salad recipe.
• Mix together chopped potatoes, green beans, and plain yogurt, then season with both dill seeds and chopped dill weed.

Journal Reference:
Victor V. Semenov, Alex S. Kiselyov et al. Efficient Synthesis of Glaziovianin A Isoflavone Series from Dill and Parsley Extracts and Their in Vitro/in Vivo Antimitotic Activity. Journal of Natural Products, 2016; 79 (5): 1429 DOI:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.6b00173

Additional Resources:
USDA – Dietary Guidelines for Americans
World’s Healthiest Foods

Photo Credit: By Goldlocki - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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