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COLUMN:Indian herbs and spices for your health

Zainab, Sayed
Welcome to the inaugural column of what I hope will be many more on health and wellness for health-conscious readers.

Have you ever wondered what you could eat to help you improve your health without spending an exorbitant amount of money on costly nutritional supplements?

Coming from India, I grew up eating a whole lot of spices in my food. Most people are unaware of many of the benefits that spices can provide without adding extra calories.

In my profession as a nutritionist, I realize how lucky I am to include all these into my daily diet, so today I am sharing a few of these super spices with you. Try to include them into your food and notice the small changes in your total health.

*Turmeric -- This is my favorite one with loads of benefits and it is already listed in Ayurveda. Let me unveil a few of them with you. I would call it yellow gold; it belongs to the ginger family, is yellow in color and, usually available in dry powder form, the main component is curcuma.
It is considered to be a powerful antioxidant that also has antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Widely used in Indian and Chinese medicine, even the western health practitioners have now acknowledged its benefits. Numerous scientific researchers have proven it to be beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation. It has been noticed that there are less incidence of Alzheimer’s and cancer in populations that had been regularly consuming turmeric.
The easiest way to consume turmeric is to add it to your everyday cooking or add about one teaspoon into a cup of warm milk or almond milk. It’s an excellent way to reduce pain and help one relax.

*Ginger -- This is an herb that is actually used as a spice. I can still remember its taste busting into my mouth when my mother used to put a dry piece into my mouth whenever we were traveling long distance and I would feel nauseous.
It is most commonly used for its digestive properties to reduce flatulence. It may also help to reduce arthritis pain and to control sinus and cold issues.
Nothing works better than a cup of warm tea with ginger; it works wonders if taken with honey for persistent cough. The strong, pungent tasting root may aid to weight loss and helps maintain blood sugar level.

*Cinnamon -- Indians have a special mix of spice to add a special flavor and make ordinary dishes come alive, it’s called garam masala.
Every household has its own secret combination. Cinnamon is one of those secret ingredients. Research has proved that cinnamon may play a major role in maintaining blood sugar levels. It may also aid in lowering cholesterol levels without reducing the good cholesterol.
In addition, it has anti-cancerous antimicrobial, antifungal properties and it is rich in magnesium and fiber too. Lastly, it aids people who are trying to lose weight and control blood sugar.

*Garlic -- The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates actually used garlic to treat many medical concerns. Garlic contains a compound called Allicin, which has medical properties and is also responsible for garlic’s distinct pungent smell. It may help in combating colds.
Only 5-6 cloves of garlic and chicken soup is an excellent way to fight colds.
Garlic may also help in maintaining blood pressure, a healthy heart and some claim that it may even lower cholesterol and reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s. It also contains antioxidant properties that may help protect against cell damage and aging.

- Zainab Sayed is a nutritionist and a registered yoga instructor with eighteen years of experience in the field of weight loss and life style disease management. She has recently moved to Woodbridge and teaches Pranayama yoga classes at the Dale City Recreation center and the Chinn Aquatics and fitness center. Sayed also teaches meditation at the McCoart Building and is the owner of Perfect Lifestylez. She can be contacted at zainab_plc@live.com.
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