Superfoods: Mangoes, honey and spices have important health benefits
Superfoods like turmeric and honey have long been recognized for their ability to promote health and wellness. New studies are examining the science behind the health benefits of superfoods.
A new study shows that adding herbs and spices to your diet may do more than improve the flavor. Researchers from Penn State University and Texas Tech University examined the cardiometabolic effects of incorporating mixed herbs and spices into an average American diet in adults at higher risk for cardiometabolic disease.
The study included 71 participants who ate diets with various amounts of herbs and spices for four weeks. When the diet with the most herbs and spices — the equivalent of about 1.5 teaspoons — was eaten, 24-hour blood pressure levels were improved compared to the diet with the lowest amounts of herbs and spices.
Ginger, cinnamon and turmeric supplements linked with cholesterol benefits
Ginger, cinnamon and turmeric have been used in food preparation for centuries and implicated as health-promoting due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, but their effects on health and specific diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease need more research.
A new study from Clemson University examined how these spices as well as the curcumin and curcuminoid pigments found in turmeric affect cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
The researchers analyzed 28 studies of randomized controlled trials that included a total of 1049 control patients and 1035 patients who received the spice supplements in capsule form for one to three months.
They found that, in general, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, curcumin and curcuminoids were associated with an improved lipid profile for people with type 2 diabetes.
Although the available studies are limited and more studies are needed, the findings suggest that these spices may offer a potential benefit for people with type 2 diabetes and unhealthy high cholesterol levels.
Nanoparticles contribute to honey’s anti-inflammatory benefits
Although the medicinal qualities of honey have been known since ancient times, scientists are still uncovering the biochemistry responsible for the health benefits of this sweet substance.
Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have discovered that honey contains tiny nano-scale particles with a membrane-enclosed structure similar to exosomes found in the body.
Experiments with these exosome-like nanoparticles showed that they can reduce inflammation in mice with experimentally induced liver injury and could potentially inhibit activation of a key inflammatory enzyme complex.
As the coronavirus pandemic rages in many parts of the world, demand for ginger and other plants and spices that boost the immune system are surging, benefiting both growers and exporters in countries like Nigeria.
As demand for health foods rose rapidly, prices for ginger in Nigeria and acai berries in Brazil have leapt while exports of Indian turmeric and Chinese garlic have jumped in the past year, Reuters said in a report.
Like ginger, garlic has components that can help the body fend off bugs, while the spice turmeric can help in the treatment of conditions involving pain and inflammation.
"The demand for ginger is high because they are using it as medicine," Karima M. Imam, a Nigerian ginger grower, told Reuters in her flowing cream hijab.
"If I had the capital, I'd plant more. People are looking for ginger now, and there is not enough," she said at her five hectare farm on the outskirts of Kaduna.