Spicing Up Your Diabetes Care

Not only do spices lend their flair to our veggies, hot dishes, and baked goods, they give a small but beneficial nutritional boost to our foods.

Ground from dried seeds, roots, berries, and bark, spices contain considerable fat, protein, and carbohydrate, but the small amount of spice typically used in cooking adds few macronutrient calories to our meals.

The nutritional boost of spices comes from their micronutrients—the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals our body requires. Most spices, for instance, have significant antioxidant activity. Besides protecting against free-radical cell damage, the antioxidants can function as natural preservatives—retarding spoilage and maintaining a food’s nutritional value.

Four Holiday Spices and Diabetes

Because of the many micronutrients in spices they, like herbs, have been used for thousands of years as healing agents. As food enhancers, these same spice compounds support our well being.

Even our favorite holiday spices have their share of nutritional bounty, for instance:

  • Nutmeg. This favorite spice for eggnog, and cookies is also known for its calming properties. It’s traditionally considered a digestive aid, and a support for liver and kidney function. One animal study suggests nutmeg has glucose and lipid lowering properties, and stimulates beta cells to produce insulin, but this requires further research for verification.
  • Allspice. Allspice - made from a dried berry - is so named because it combines the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Allspice has anti-inflammatory properties, aids digestion, supports cardiovascular health, and has antibacterial compounds to help fight infection.
  • Cinnamon. This warm and sweet spice may provide a brain and memory pick-me-up, and also stimulates our metabolism. Studies have shown it lowers glucose levels, triglycerides, and improves insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes.
  • Because cinnamon contains the blood-thinning compound called coumarin, those taking blood thinners, or people with bleeding disorders should avoid this spice.
  • Ginger. It’s hard not to love the intoxicating smell of gingerbread. Ginger is also good for aiding digestion, and soothing upset stomachs. The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are likely responsible for its association with increased insulin sensitivity, and weight stability.
  • “The key is that all the [spices] we talk about for weight loss or maintenance have anti-inflammatory properties and a flavor profile that may help limit overall calorie intake.” ~Jaclyn London, dietitian, Mount Sinai Hospital

While it’s true we could get these health benefits from other food sources, just imagine what a different experience eating would be without our colorful palette of spices.

Best When Fresh

Though spices don’t rot or spoil, they do lose flavor over time. The most flavorful spices are ground as needed using a coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle. When buying ground spices, consider purchasing small quantities since those older than six months should be replaced. Whole dry spices, if stored properly, last up to two years.

“I think that if you grind your spices and keep them in small batches, you can use them in endless ways. The key thing is to have a spice mill or a coffee grinder, and to keep your spices cold and in tightly lidded boxes.” ~ Marcus Samuelsson

Sources: Spices Simply; Health Benefits Times; Anabolic Minds; The Spruce; Mercola
Photo credit: Kjokkenutstyr Net

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