Spice Up Your Health

By Lauren Popeck, RD, LDN, Registered and Licensed Dietitian at Orlando Health

We reach for spices to add some zing to our spaghetti sauce or some heat to our chicken wings. But new research is reminding us of their medicinal properties too — something the ancients knew thousands of years ago. Some spices can treat motion sickness, while others battle inflammation and cholesterol. So take an extra minute to add the health-enhancing flavors of these six common spices to your meals. You probably have most of them already in your pantry or refrigerator.

Cayenne Pepper

This heat-producing spice has benefits for cancer protection, reducing inflammation and weight loss.

Add to sautéed veggies or salads. Try spicy tuna salad. A dash of cayenne is a great complement on cooked bitter greens. Use in hot sauce or salsa with scrambled eggs or soup.


Studies have shown the benefits of cinnamon for managing cholesterol, sugar and insulin levels.

Try blending cinnamon in moderation into smoothies, coffee or tea, butternut squash and chili. Tastes great sprinkled on brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal.


One of the world’s oldest herbs, garlic has potent medicinal properties. It can boost the immune system, help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

For a simple and fresh salad dressing, blend fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice plus fresh herbs. Stuff garlic cloves into chicken breasts and roasts, or add to stew. Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil for garlic mashed potatoes.


Effective in treating nausea and motion sickness, studies show that ginger also may help lower cholesterol levels, prevent cancer development and support brain health.

Fresh minced or ground ginger instantly adds flair to sautéed vegetables and marinades. Sprinkle ground ginger on sweet potatoes for an antioxidant-packed side dish.


This herb has one of the highest antioxidant ratings of any food. Oregano also has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties, and helps relieve upper respiratory infections. 

Use oregano for more than pizza and spaghetti sauce. Enliven sandwiches, casseroles and salad dressings. Try a slice of whole grain toast with mozzarella and a sprinkle of oregano.


The spice that gives curry its yellow color, turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have found that its main active ingredient, curcumin, supports brain health, may help prevent heart disease and cancer, and shows promise in treating depression.  

Add 1-2 teaspoons to any soup recipe, or add a color pop to rice dishes by mixing 1/2 teaspoon

in water when cooking the rice. Sprinkle into sautéed or braised greens such as kale, collard greens and cabbage.

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