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Spice Up Your Mealtime with These Anti-Inflammatory Spices

Inflammation is your body’s defense against foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses, pollen, and even certain chemicals.Inflammation is your body’s defense against foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses, pollen, and even certain chemicals. It’s natural and totally necessary to keep your internal systems safe. However, sometimes inflammatory symptoms occur even when there are no invaders to fight. This needless battle is called chronic inflammation, and it has been connected to serious health conditions, including arthritis, depression, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

From regular exercise to stress management techniques, there are tons of ways to reduce inflammation inside your body. However, one of the simplest solutions is to add as many anti-inflammatory foods to your regular diet as you can. Good examples include fruits like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries as well as vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. Don’t fret if these don’t exactly rank among your favorite foods, though. You can make things even easier by cooking with anti-inflammatory spices.

For more creative ways to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, check out our articles on Anti-Inflammatory Snacks and Anti-Inflammatory Breakfasts. But now, without further ado, let’s dive into 3 delicious anti-inflammatory spices that you can start adding to your favorite dishes.

Turmeric

If you’ve heard anything about anti-inflammatory spices before, then you probably already know a little bit about turmeric. This spice has been used for its flavor, its color, and its anti-inflammatory properties for nearly 4,000 years. This long history dates back to its appearance in both Indian and South Asian cuisines as well as traditional medical systems. 

The source of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties is actually an antioxidant known as curcumin. Studies have found that curcumin inhibits the production of inflammatory mediators (the messengers that promote an inflammatory response in your cells) and provides effective relief for the symptoms of diseases related to inflammation, including IBD, arthritis, psoriasis, depression, and more.

Turmeric is perhaps most often added to curry both for its flavor and unique color. However, there are also other ways to incorporate this potent spice into your recipes. It makes a powerful addition to rice, eggs, pasta, vegetable dips, and even taco fillings. Or, if you’d rather drink your turmeric, you can blend it into a smoothie or sprinkle some in your coffee.

Ginger

Closely related to turmeric, ginger is another potent and popular spice that is well known for its vast range of health benefits. It has an invigorating aroma and a spicy kick that provides an almost comforting sensation of warmth. Like turmeric, ginger also has its roots in medicinal practices, with a particular link to traditional Chinese medicine that dates back over 5,000 years.

Ginger contains numerous anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce the symptoms of inflammatory conditions. In fact, some studies have shown that not only does ginger improve certain disorders related to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health, but it may also have the potential to help prevent cancer and decrease muscle pain after exercise.

And this healthy spice is just as versatile in the kitchen as it is in your body! Ginger is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes like Ginger Chicken, a classic of the Hunan culinary school. Ground ginger can also be added to various baked goods, like gingerbread or gingersnaps, as well as soups, stir fries, and even salad dressings.

Red Chili Powder

If ginger isn’t spicy enough for you, maybe you’d like to up the temperature with red chili powder? Though it has not been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties as closely until recent years, the fiery peppers this spice comes from have had their place in both cuisine and medicine for much longer, with domesticated chili peppers appearing in Mexico as early as 5,000 BC.

Chili peppers contain the active ingredient capsaicin, which gives them their signature spice. However, spice isn’t all that this unique chemical brings to the table. According to nutritional studies, it also appears to have natural anti-inflammatory effects. This may be due to its ability to arrest the production of cytokine, a pro-inflammatory substance used for communication among cells.

Red chili powder can be added to practically any dish to give it a pleasant kick of heat, but it’s particularly common in Mexican and other Latin cuisines. Use it to add some fire to your salsa, spice up your chili and soups, or even season your popcorn.

Possible Side Effects of Consuming Anti-Inflammatory Spices

For the most part, cooking with anti-inflammatory spices is a safe and natural means of alleviating the symptoms of chronic inflammation. However, some spices may be linked to potential side effects. Here is a brief list of the side effects you could experience when consuming the spices we just covered:

  • Turmeric: Nausea, indigestion, acid reflux, dizziness, lower blood sugar.
  • Ginger: Heartburn, irritation of the mouth or throat, stomach discomfort.
  • Red chili powder: Mouth or stomach ulcers, digestive troubles, skin irritation.

Keep in mind that it is always important to talk with your doctor before making significant changes to your regular diet, especially if you suffer from chronic inflammation or other health conditions.

Why Cook With Anti-Inflammatory Spices?

For anyone who is looking for easy ways to start eating an anti-inflammatory diet, cooking with anti-inflammatory spices might be one of the best solutions. Spices exist to enhance flavors, so you don’t need to build your entire meal around them. Instead, you can simply throw them in where you can, even if it’s just in your morning smoothie, to give your body an extra anti-inflammatory boost.

But aside from all the health benefits of these spices, cooking with new ingredients is fun! If you’ve never dabbled with turmeric, ginger, red chili powder, or any of the other various anti-inflammatory spices out there, it might be interesting to quite literally spice up your regular dishes by finding ways to incorporate them. Not to mention, it could also be a great opportunity to try new recipes or new types of cuisine from other cultures. Don’t be afraid to get creative. You never know when you might find your new favorite dish!

Other anti-inflammatory spices to try:

  • Black pepper.
  • Ashwagandha.
  • Cinnamon.
  • Cayenne.
  • Cloves.
  • Calendula.
  • Cumin.
  • Cardamom.
  • Rosemary.
  • Peppermint.

Key Takeaways

  • Cooking with anti-inflammatory spices is an effective and simple way to give your body an extra anti-inflammatory boost – not to mention, it’s fun!
  • Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties come from the antioxidant curcumin and may provide relief for the symptoms of inflammatory diseases.
  • Ginger contains numerous anti-inflammatory compounds that improve disorders related to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health.
  • The active ingredient capsaicin, found in red chili powder, has natural anti-inflammatory effects.