Spices, a valuable addition to a heart-healthy diet

Dec 07 2013, 17:14 IST
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Used in traditional medicine by herbalists, spices have been a part of healing remedies for centuries.(Photo:Thinkstock) Used in traditional medicine by herbalists, spices have been a part of healing remedies for centuries.(Photo:Thinkstock)
SummaryUsed in traditional medicine by herbalists, spices have been a part of healing remedies for centuries.

It is not surprising that spices were some of the most valuable items of trade in the medieval era. Used in traditional medicine by herbalists, they have been a part of healing remedies for centuries. Modern medicine too has begun studying the powers of common herbs and spices. Here are a few of these and their benefits.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds are rich in two main compounds — linaloon and decanoic acid. These are known for their cholesterol- and blood sugar-lowering effects. Several animal studies have demonstrated a reduction in total cholesterol, bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase in good cholesterol (HDL). A teaspoon or two of coriander seeds consumed after soaking overnight seems to be beneficial for those suffering from in heart disease and diabetes.

Turmeric

Turmeric or haldi is well-known as a spice and medicine in Siddha and Ayurveda. The benefits for heart health arise from curcumin, an active principle which is anti-oxidant, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative. Several scientific studies have documented the effect of curcumin in decreasing blood cholesterol levels. Anti-oxidant properties of curcumin may also help prevent cardiovascular complications among diabetics.

Black pepper

Piperine, a major active component in both black and white (de-husked) pepper has numerous reported physiological and drug-like actions. Several scientific studies provide evidence that black pepper has cholesterol-lowering properties and may help in recovery of cardiac function after heart attacks. A word of caution -- piperine can strengthen or modify the effects of numerous other medicines, particularly blood thinning agents. Therefore, it is important to seek advice from a qualified professional before using it in therapeutic doses.

Cinnamon

Circulatory stimulant effects of cinnamon have been reported in several books on medicinal plants and in Ayurveda. It helps in reduction of total and bad cholesterol and increase in good cholesterol. It also helps improve insulin resistance, thereby making it useful in diabetes management.

Fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek seeds (methi) have been used extensively to prepare extracts and powders for medicinal uses. Fenugreek seed powder has been known to lower levels of serum lipids such as total cholesterol and triglycerides. Phytochemical (saponins) in fenugreek reportedly aid in glucose, cholesterol metabolism and cancer protection. They can be had mixed into chapatis, rice, dal, vegetable, curd, pickle, chutneys, or as sprouts in salad.

Black cumin seeds

Black cumin seeds, also known as kalonji or black caraway, should not be confused with the herb cumin. A recent study revealed that black cumin seeds have a diversified effect on lipid profile. It

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