Limiting sodium, increasing fiber, eating more fruits and veggies, adding exercise…these are all proven ways to boost your heart health. But did you know that there are some secret ingredients for a vital heart just waiting for you in your pantry? It's true! It just so happens that the various herbs and spices that make your meals burst with flavor also make your heart glow with health!
If you adore Cinnamon, you are barking up the right tree! Cinnamon is well known for its ability to control blood sugar levels, improve digestion and lower cholesterol.
Packed with fiber and calcium, cinnamon is great for the heart. A good source of fiber and calcium, Cinnamon promotes heart health by helping to transport bile salts outside the body. The body then produces more bile salts for other bodily functions by breaking down cholesterol. This directly translates to lower cholesterol levels which protects the heart from blockages.
How to Get More of It: Sprinkle cinnamon in your coffee or tea or add cinnamon to breakfast porridges and baked fruit desserts.
Turmeric is at the “root” of curry’s golden color and is one of the most powerful heart-healthy spices. Turmeric owes its heart-healthy status to the powerful antioxidant curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering characteristics. Turmeric not only helps to lower cholesterol, it also prevents the oxidation of cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in plaques, ultimately leading to heart attack or stroke.
How to Get More of It: Turmeric is commonly found in Indian and Thai cuisine and can be a delightful addition to stir-fries, soups and homemade spice mixes.
Sweet and spicy, Ginger packs a punch against heart disease. Ginger is in the same family as turmeric and shares a lot of its properties. Ginger is most commonly known for its ability to improve digestion but a study published in 2005 in the “Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology” found that ginger also lowered blood pressure and reduced cholesterol in controlled experiments.
How to get more of it: Use fresh ginger to make tea or use it in desserts, stir-fries and other Asian-inspired dishes. Unfortunately ginger-ale is not a form of ginger that has heart benefits.
Cayenne comes from red chili peppers and has long been proven to treat circulatory conditions and improve blood flow. Cayenne owes its heart-healthy status to capsaicin, a powerful phyto-chemical. Capsaicin is also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including poor circulation, excessive blood clotting, high cholesterol, and preventing heart disease. Capsaicin cleans the arteries and helps to rid the body of the bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
How to get more of it: Cayenne is an exciting addition to everything from meat dishes to lemonade. It can be spicy, so use a pinch to start out with and gradually add more.
Perhaps these herbs remind you of a certain mellow song? When it comes to these guys, we’re definitely singing their praises! Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme all contain powerful antioxidants that strengthen blood vessels and cell walls. They all have natural anti-inflammatory properties and help lower blood pressure.
The fragrant nature of rosemary and other herbs may even increase mental ability and boost your mood.
How to get more of them: Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are all great herbs for jazzing up meats, soups and salads. Try them on roasted chicken and vegetables!
Take advantage of the natural healing power of food by adding heart-healthy spices to your diet. Adding heart-healthy spices is great way to increase antioxidant and phytonutrient intake and may improve many conditions in the body. Heart healthy spices are inexpensive and can last for several months as very little is required for maximum flavor and health benefits.
Do you have ideas for how to use some of these heart-healthy spices? Share them with us!
Author: Brandi Redo
Brandi is a Certified Health Coach at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. Balance is the number one mission in Brandi’s life. In her spare time she loves to bike, do Zumba and play tennis, but hates gym exercise. She is an amateur gardener and nature walker, who is on the constant look out for interesting insects and small animals. Brandi encourages people to “find the sweetness in life.”