Natures Medicine: Herbs and Spices for a Healthy Heart

Have you ever stopped to think that what you season your food with could be an issue of life or death?

This may sound a little dramatic to you, but stay with me on this one! According to a study published in The British Medical Journal people who eat more spicy food have decreased risk of death from illnesses such cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory diseases.

Although this study wasn't conclusive in it's result, it certainly indicates that adding spices and herbs to our food may help improve health. Furthermore the fact that medicinal practices such as Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have promoted the use of herbs and spices for healing and health gives a clue to the role they play in keeping our bodies functioning optimally. So lets take a look at some of the top herbs and spices for cardiovascular health.

Cinnamon:

This spice not only has a sweet taste but is loaded with antioxidants. Consuming antioxidants protects your body from oxidative damage, therefore improving the body's ability to ward of disease and keeping you looking and feeling younger. According to studies (1) (2) this wonder spice can help to reduce inflammation. This is crucial if you want to avoid heart disease as high levels of inflammation are correlated with cardiovascular disease.

Another high risk factor for heart disease is diabetes which is also believed to be helped by cinnamon.  According to various human studies (3) (4) (5) they've shown that consuming cinnamon can lower blood sugar by up to 29%.  This may be linked to the way in which it's been found to improve insulin sensitivity, therefore allowing insulin to transport sugar from the blood stream to the cells efficiently.

Furthermore cinnamon has been found to help lower triglycerides, and overall cholesterol (6) indicating that it may be beneficial to keep your cardiovascular system working optimally.

Cayenne and Chili Peppers:

Both these spices are from the capsaicin family and can certainly pack a punch when it comes to adding heat to a dish. According to a 6 year study (7) those who regularly ate chili peppers lowered their mortality risk by 13%, and that is taking into account lifestyle, demographic and clinical factors.

According to medicalnewstoday.com cayenne peppers "can act as powerful blood-thinning agents" as well as "lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation and reducing pain sensations". Therefore adding peppers whether chili or cayenne may help to improve the health of your heart.

Turmeric:

Turmeric has received a great deal of publicity in recent years due to its' therapeutic compound circumin. Indian culture has used turmeric for thousands of years to add color and flavour to curries as well as for its' medicinal compounds.

As mentioned the compound circumin is what gives turmeric its' healing credentials, which is why over 1000 clinical studies have been done on circumin. The most notable effects of this compound are:

  • its' anti-inflammatory abilities. Inflammation is the bodies reaction to damage done by lifestyle factors such as poor diet, exposure to stress and toxins. Reducing chronic inflammation enables the body to heal and may reduce risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease.
  • its' antioxidant properties. Antioxidants in the diet are believed to play a vital role in reducing risk of chronic disease this is due to the way they are thought to prevent free radical damage and the oxidation of cells.
  • its' ability to support a healthy cardiovascular system, which is believed to be because it protects the endothelium (blood vessel walls). According to one study (8) it increases the bio-availability of a compound called nitric oxide ( a molecule that helps the muscles of the vessel walls relax)

 

Oregano:

This herb is often associated with Italian cooking and adds great flavour to meat dishes. It's taste isn't the only thing it has going for it, it's a rich source of vitamin K, an essential vitamin for healthy  blood as well as providing essential minerals iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

The minerals magnesium and potassium are both believed to help with blood pressure control and may be the reason people believe oregano can help to balance blood pressure.

Oregano is abundant in antioxidants,which as mentioned already, helps to keep disease at bay. It's also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that aid to reduce risk of heart disease.

Spice up your life

As you can see adding herbs and spices is a tasty way to improve health and increase your levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and foods with anti-inflammatory properties. So next time your in the kitchen be sure to add a variety of herbs and spices.

 

If you want to learn more ways to improve your cardiovascular health be sure to watch The Untold Story of Heart Disease.

 

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