Food Matters: The Flavor of Health
As a Natural Solutions reader, you may already know the golden rule for a healthy diet: eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, and grains (as close to nature as possible) and enjoy whatever other foods you like—just not too much (and if it is highly processed, eat even less).
Everything else is commentary! Follow this golden rule and you can sharply lower your risks for heart disease or stroke. Concerned about memory loss or maintaining your brain power as you age? Studies continue to show that following this golden rule to healthy eating is powerfully supportive. Worried about cancer? The golden rule of eating reduces your risks for many cancers.
Whether a Mediterranean diet, the China Study diet, the Alkalizing diet, the DASH diet, the new Weight Watcher’s program, or Dr. Ornish’s “Spectrum Diet” for preventing and reversing heart disease, the golden rule of healthy eating serves as the foundation.
What is an essential element to their success? All these diets are rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory micronutrients.
Blending Spices and Herbs for Antioxidant Power
Antioxidants are the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients found mostly in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Better-known antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the mineral selenium. Other antioxidants are carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene which are responsible for adding color to many fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is the orange in carrots and pumpkins. Lutein is abundant in leafy green vegetables. Lycopene is the red in tomatoes. Then there are flavonoids found in green tea, chocolate, grapes, berries, and cinnamon—plus the phenols found in citrus fruit, the sulfides in garlic and onions, and the thiols in broccoli and cabbage.
So what do antioxidants do? There is a lot of chemistry here, but for now understand that as a natural byproduct of using oxygen in our bodies, compounds are created that damage our cells and contribute to heart disease, cancer, and even aging itself. Antioxidants support the body’s ability to neutralize these harmful compounds.
Modern life, however, undermines the control process. Smoking and pollution as well as processed foods, deep-fried foods, and flame-broiled meats increase these harmful compounds. We also are eating fewer foods that deliver high antioxidant levels.
Where can you find the most potent sources of antioxidants? Consider this: one teaspoon of certain herbs and spices can deliver five times more antioxidant capacity than in a cup of berries, a glass of red wine, or a couple ounces of dark chocolate. Spices and herbs are Mother Nature’s most powerful antioxidants!
What is even better is that spices and herbs are easily blended. These blends then deliver multiple sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that work together to support your body’s natural control mechanisms. Consider Indian curries, Chinese 5-spice blend, North African Ras el hanout, Arabic Zahtar, and the classic herb blends of Greek, Italian, and French cuisines!
Best of all, spices and herbs can make health foods more delicious and delicious foods healthier. So start finding new ways to bring herbs and spices into your diet at every meal: nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove in your morning cereal; oregano, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme with your lunch salad; cumin, pepper, paprika, and ginger with your dinnertime vegetables. And remember to be brave with your herbs and spices. A sprinkle here and there will not do much for either health or taste. Use a teaspoon or tablespoon to add an impact of flavor to your cooking.
Herbs/Spices Antioxidant ORAC levels in 10g
Garlic Powder 665
Pepper (Black) 7367
Pepper (Hot) 1967
Fruits/Veggies Antioxidant ORAC levels in 50g
Broccoli Cooked 1080
Cabbage Red Raw 1245
Cabbage Red Cooked 1575
Beans/Nuts Antioxidant ORAC levels in 50g
Black Beans 4245
Kidney Beans 4250
Navy Beans 805
Split Peas 370
Rob Leighton is author of three acclaimed books on heart health: The Kardea Gourmet: Smart & Delicious Eating for a Healthy Heart written with Dr. Richard Collins, a leading preventive cardiologist; Mediterranean Spice Blends: The Forgotten Ingredient of a Heart Healthy Diet; and Top Nutrients for a Healthy Heart.