A robust immune system keeps you healthy in spite of the bacteria, viruses and countless other invisible threats you encounter every day. It kicks in after you get a cut to fight off germs and hasten the healing process, and it helps protect you from nasty colds and flus.
The Two Major Ways that Spices Play a Role in Immunity
Your immune system requires maintenance so it can keep doing its job well. To keep it in tip-top shape, you need adequate sleep, solid hygiene, regular exercise and proper nutrition. Proper nutrition means a diet rich in fruits, veggies, herbs and spices that can boost your immunity.
Wondering how spices fit into the equation? Generally, spices can help power up your immune system because they are:
- Anti-inflammatory: Prolonged stress from things like work, major life events and relationship difficulties can trigger your immune system as low-grade inflammation, which wears on your body. Spices that are anti-inflammatory may help protect against this type of inflammation.
- Antioxidative: Spices contain antioxidants which protect your immune cells from harmful substances in the environment called free radicals. Free radicals are created by pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, medication and even by your own metabolism (which is to say they’re unavoidable!).
Five Spices to Enhance Your Immune System
While spices are not miracle workers, they can benefit your health. Including more spices in your diet helps you get more vitamins and minerals and allows you to slash salt from your recipes without compromising flavor!
Without further ado, here are our top five spices to help enhance your immune system:
Warm and comforting, cinnamon is a familiar note in baked goods. This brown spice contains cinnamaldehyde, a bactericide. Not only is cinnamon helpful to your immune system, there is some evidence that it may help people with diabetes — a small study found that a special type of cinnamon, when taken at high enough doses, can enhance insulin secretion.
Inspiration: Enjoy cinnamon in these Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes.
You may recognize turmeric as the golden-yellow hue in curry mixes, chutney and other tasty South Asian dishes. This bright spice contains curcumin, a potent group of antioxidants that help protect cells from free radicals and suppress inflammation. Fun fact: clinical trials are underway to study turmeric and its effects on pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s, blood disease and psoriasis.
Inspirations: Use turmeric to brighten a Moroccan Stew or make crispy Turmeric Latkes.
Hot and zesty ginger is common in Chinese and Indian cuisine and even in baked goods like gingerbread. This punchy spice is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidative. Another perk: ginger is an effective therapy against nausea and vomiting.
Inspiration: Try using fresh ginger in a tasty Ginger-Steamed Fish recipe or grind ginger to spice up a Ginger, Berries and Oats Smoothie.
Like the other spices we’ve mentioned, coriander has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. This spice comes from seeds within the cilantro plant, which means some of us will love it, and some will think it tastes like soap.
Inspiration: For the cilantro/coriander-lovers reading, try coriander in these Beef Fajitas.
Black cumin contains thymoquinone, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Cumin is commonly used in Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisines to give dishes an earthy flavor.
Inspiration: Try using cumin in these Chili-Stuffed Yellow Peppers.