For those familiar with superfoods, you’ve probably already guessed that it’s important to try to consume as many as you can from natural food sources to get the full nutritional benefits. The same goes for superfood spices, which can not only add a dose of delicious flavor to your meal but can also pack a powerful punch when it comes to providing extreme nutritional value.
Many spices have long been hailed as natural remedies and relief for an astounding amount of ailments. But not all spices are created equal. These 5 superfood spices are some of the most potent, most researched, and most impressive natural preventatives for a variety of afflictions…and they also make your dinner, afternoon coffee, or breakfast cereal taste super delicious!
Turmeric Health Benefits
Turmeric has long been used in Asian and Indian medicine as a cure-all for a number of maladies. It’s a natural pain reliever, used for centuries to treat joint and arthritic pain and inflammation. But research continues to point to turmeric’s benefits as a possible anti-cancer agent as well as potential preventive aid for Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and many other major illnesses.
It’s believed that the curcumin within the turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Research on inflammation continues to explore the idea that the more inflammation within the body, the more prone your various organs are to developing specific forms of disease.
Ingesting a recommended dosage of between 500 and 1000 milligrams of turmeric a day may help to minimize this inflammation. There are about 200 milligrams of curcumin in an ounce of freshly ground turmeric. And while fresh is best, it’s not always as readily available.
Studies show that in countries where turmeric is regularly consumed as part of a daily diet, rates of certain types of cancer are reduced dramatically.
This chart from a comprehensive study of herbs and spices and their effects on health details exactly how vast of a difference daily turmeric in your diet can make on your overall health and risks of particular diseases and cancers.
Cinnamon Health Benefits
Cinnamon is perhaps one of the most popular American spices. It’s easy and cheap to find, and it can enhance the flavor of everything from smoothies to your favorite desserts.
There are two distinct types of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is the slightly less common of the two, yet a bit sweeter and often referred to as the “real cinnamon” among cinnamon aficionados. Ceylon is primarily produced in Indonesia, whereas the more common variety of cinnamon, known as Cassia cinnamon, is produced in Sri Lanka. This is likely the variety you most commonly find in the spice aisle at your grocery store or topped on your lattes at your local cafe.
Beyond being delicious, studies reveal that cinnamon has some important heart-healthy benefits, including being able to significantly reduce cholesterol and lipid levels in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as anti-bacterial abilities.
Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants, which is one of the reasons it tops our top 5 superfood spices list. In fact, this study tested the antioxidant potency of 26 different spices and found that cinnamon beat out most of them, including garlic.
Cinnamon is also believed to help control body fat by creating a metabolism boost, heating up the body and building a natural furnace to burn calories.
Cumin Health Benefits
Cumin happens to be the most popular spice in the world. So, it’s no surprise that it’s also full of some heart-healthy, immune-system-enhancing nutritional benefits.
Cumin comes from the parsley family, and more specifically is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum. Cumin is used in a large variety of food, from favorite Mexican dishes to Asian fare, to some Middle Eastern cuisine and more.
Cumin is an excellent immune booster because it’s rich in vitamin C. It also aids in digestion, and because of its high fiber count is a great natural aid to help fight hemorrhoids.
Cumin is also rich in flavonoids—superfood ingredients that possess many different health properties. According to an article in the food science journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, “Many flavonoids are shown to have antioxidative activity, free-radical scavenging capacity, coronary heart disease prevention, and anticancer activity, while some flavonoids exhibit potential for anti-human immunodeficiency virus functions.”
Cardamom Health Benefits
Generally speaking, cardamom is one of the most expensive spices, ranking just behind saffron and vanilla. And it’s easy to see why it’s so desirable, as it boasts a ton of health benefits, including relief from cardiovascular illness, cancer prevention and protection, and urinary tract infections.
But thankfully a little goes a long way and can deliver a host of nutrient-rich health benefits in just a pinch. There are three varieties of cardamom: green, black, and Madagascar. The most commonly used and available is green.
In India, Cardamom is a significant component of Ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient practice that involves both herbs and spices, as well as evaluating a specific type of constitution. It’s believed that combining the right kinds of food with the proper body constitution can help heal a variety of ailments and regulate the body’s natural propensity for health and wellness.
Cardamom has a host of benefits including antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer properties. In fact, it’s an excellent anti-carcinogenic in that it has shown potential to actually anticipate and stop cancer cells from forming.
Cardamom is full of phytonutrients and is particularly high in manganese, a trace mineral that helps the body build connective tissue, bones, and sex hormones. For this reason, cardamom is also a well-known natural aphrodisiac. It’s also believed to assist in treating erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and even impotence.
Cardamom is especially helpful at treating and preventing gastrointestinal issues.
Saffron Health Benefits
Saffron is easily the most expensive and most challenging spice to acquire, and it has every reason to possess this elite status, mainly due to its important health-first qualities. Saffron has long been associated with its natural ability to help with anxiety, premenstrual symptoms, and depression. Recently, through a relatively new series of studies, saffron has been proven rich in crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin, and safranal, which have demonstrated health benefits, including possible cancer prevention and as palliative nutrients for chemotherapy treatment.
There are three types of saffron: mongra/lacha saffron (or Indian saffron), which is only produced in India and is the most expensive of all the varieties; aquilla or Iranian saffron; and Spanish superior saffron, which tends to be lower in quality and taste. The most common variety of saffron is found in a dried or powdered version, which is great because you only need between about 0.5 to 1 gram(s) to benefit.
While more human testing is needed, it’s clear that saffron isn’t just a pretty, tasty spice. Saffron is rich in antioxidant properties that are excellent at fighting free radicals. And it’s the crocin, in particular, and specifically in Indian Saffron, that is of most interest to researchers, as its crocin content is 26 times “better” than other saffron varieties.
Superfood Spices in Your Diet
Research and interest in all the spices on our superfood spices list are still ongoing. More important and beneficial secrets of the spices will be revealed as scientists in the medical community continue to explore the health benefits of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, and saffron, as well as many others!
The most recommended way to get more superfood spices into your diet is to cook or drink fresh spices when you can. Check out our Superfood Spice Mango Smoothie recipe!
Taking a supplement is a perfectly fine alternative. You may get lucky and find some with combinations of your favorite superfood spices as well! Check out organic brands if you can find them, and pay attention to any other additives or ingredients.