11 Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better

Find out what to eat and drink to catch more quality zzz’s.

Trying to get more shut-eye? Take a look at your diet. Eating the right foods in the hours before you hit the hay may help you fall asleep faster, say experts, and even improve the quality of your sleep. Keep reading for your get-sleepy grocery list, and remember to stop noshing two hours before bedtime to give your body enough time to properly digest.

1 Edamame

Craving a salty snack before bed? Turn to lightly salted edamame, says Dr. Dalton-Smith—especially if you’re dealing with menopause-related symptoms. “The natural estrogen-like compounds found in soy-based products can be very beneficial in controlling those nighttime hot flashes that can disturb your sleep,” she says. If it’s crackers and dip you’re craving, try making this easy edamame recipe: In a food processor, blend together 2 cups of shelled, cooked edamame with 1 tsp salt, a drizzle of olive oil and 1 clove garlic (optional) until smooth.

2 Hard Cooked Eggs

If you have trouble staying asleep at night, it may be because you didn’t eat a pre-bedtime snack high in protein, or perhaps your snack was too high in simple, high-sugar carbohydrates, like cake and candy. “The problem with simple carbs is that they can put you on a ‘sugar roller coaster’ and drop your blood sugar while you’re sleeping, causing you to wake at 2 or 3 in the morning,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. A better bet? “Eat an egg, cheese, nuts or other protein-rich snack instead,” he says, “so you can not only fall asleep, but stay asleep.”

3Miso Soup

You love to order this comforting, broth-based soup in Japanese restaurants, but keeping a few 8-ounce packs of instant miso soup at home may be key when you’re having trouble falling asleep, says Stella Metsovas, CN, a nutritionist in Laguna Beach, California. Here’s why: Miso contains amino acids that may boost the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that can help induce the yawns. Bonus: Research shows that warm liquids like soup and tea may also relieve cold symptoms, helping you sleep better when you’re feeling under the weather.

4Cereal

There’s no need to feel guilty about having a small bowl of cereal before bed, especially if it’s a low-sugar, whole-grain cereal. Not only is it a healthy snack (make sure you top it with milk to give your body the protein it needs), but it may also help you snooze. “Complex carbohydrate–rich foods increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream, increasing the sleep-inducing effects,” says Dr. Dalton-Smith. Bonus: Top your bowl with a sprinkling of dried cherries (see above) for extra help catching your zzz’s.

5Broccoli

What you eat during the day could help you feel well-rested tomorrow morning. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that the more fiber in a person’s diet, the more time they spent in restorative sleep. On the other hand, researchers found that people who ate a lot of saturated fat spent less time in the deep-sleep phase. Opt for fiber-filled foods like beans, broccoli and raspberries, and cut back on foods high in saturated fat, like bacon, steak, butter and cheese.

6Dairy

Yogurt and milk do contain tryptophan, notes Dr. Dalton-Smith, but also have a surprising sleep-inducing nutrient: “Calcium is effective in stress reduction and stabilization of nerve fibers, including those in the brain.” That means a serving of your favorite Greek yogurt before bed can not only help you sleep, but also help you stop worrying about the weird thing your boss said earlier at work.

 

Worried about falling asleep tonight? Have a banana before bed, says Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD, an internist and the author of Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves. “Bananas are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium, which help to relax overstressed muscles. They also contain tryptophan, which convert to serotonin and melatonin, the brain’s key calming hormones.” Try this tasty and incredibly simple bedtime smoothie: Blend one banana with one cup of milk or soy milk (and ice, if desired). Pour and enjoy!

8Oatmeal

You eat it for breakfast, but could a bowl of warm oatmeal help you get more rest? Yes, says Stephan Dorlandt, a clinical nutritionist based in Southern California. “Think about it,” he says. “Oatmeal is warm, soft, soothing, easy to prepare, inexpensive and nourishing. It’s rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and potassium—the who’s who of nutrients known to support sleep.” But go easy on the sweeteners; too much sugar before bed can have an anti-calming effect. Instead, consider topping your bowl with fruit, like bananas (see above).

9 Tea

Yes, avoiding all caffeine in the evening hours is key, but some decaf varieties can help get you into sleep mode, says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Chamomile tea is a very helpful and safe sleep aid,” he says, adding that green tea is another good choice. “Green tea contains theanine, which helps promote sleep. Just be sure you get a decaf green tea if drinking it at bedtime.” Experts recommend trying a 1-cup serving of the hot stuff.

10 Cherries

Oddly, a glass of cherry juice may be an effective way to fall asleep faster, says a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Rochester. In their study, they found that cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boosted the body’s supply of melatonin, which helped people with insomnia. While the jury is still out on how much juice or how many cherries are needed to make you sleepy, experts say sipping a glass of cherry juice (available at most natural foods stores) or having a serving of fresh, frozen or dried cherries before bedtime couldn’t hurt.

Five Easy Ways to Eat More Spinach (Your Muscles Will Thank You, Says Science)

by Siobhan O’Connor

Siobhan O’Connor is a natural beauty and health expert and the co-author, with Alexandra Spunt, of the blog No More Dirty Looks.

It turns out that Popeye was onto something: Besides providing the body with protein, iron, powerful antioxidants, and a natural glow, spinach may also benefit muscle building. So much for the puny-vegetarian stereotype!

And since it’s such a health superstar, we’re going to tell you how to incorporate it into your diet without having to think too much about it. Here’s why.

The Daily is reporting on a new(ish) study published in Cell Metabolism which showed that eating spinach may help muscles work more efficiently during exercise. Apparently the inorganic nitrate found in spinach does this by fueling mitochondria—the little engines in our cells that could—with more energy on less oxygen. The lead scientist on the study, Dr. Eddie Weitzberg, compared it to being able to run a car on less fuel but at the same speed.

Whether or not you’re taking the GOOD 30-day challenge or did our own Vegan For a Week Challenge (and have been following ourMeatless Monday recipe series), eating more spinach is a great idea. Its mild flavor makes it one of the most versatile super foods, and it pairs easily with (or hidden in) just about anything. Because you can buy it frozen it’s also convenient and affordable.

Here are a few no-brainer ways to add it to a meal:

Hidden in smoothies: You can load a smoothie with spinach and still have it taste like vanilla ice cream—it’s truly an incredible trick for anyone who thinks they hate veggies (if you’re dealing with a finicky kid—or as I was, a finicky man—just add blueberries to hide the color). Smoothies are also a happy home for spinach because the iron is more readily absorbed with vitamin C, which is found abundantly in fruits. Go for strawberries right now—they have a ton of C and they’re in season (at least in California).

In omelettes: Whether you want to power up at breakfast, or make a lazy dinner, adding spinach to an omelette will take it to the next level. I like doing a Greek-inspired fast frittata with olive oil, onion, and feta. Just saute the onions in a pan that can go in the oven, then add the spinach and let it cook down for a minute. Then pour in your eggs and let that sit until it looks like the bottom half is cooked; then sprinkle it with feta, salt, and pepper and throw it in the oven under the broiler. When the eggs brown at the edges and the feta bubbles you’re done. Takes ten minutes, tastes gourmet.

With pasta or on pizza: It really doesn’t matter whether you like a red sauce, a cream sauce, or a simple olive oil drizzle on your pasta or pizza—spinach pairs with all. You can easily add it to something store-bought but a recent taste triumph at my house involved frozen peas and spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic in a pan. To that I added the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s (cooked of course), some red chili flakes, lemon juice, and lots of salt and pepper. If you’re vegan you’re done (or you can add some nutritional yeast to taste). If you like cheese, throw in some parmesan. If you want meat in there, prosciutto works great.

As a side: This is basically the same as above but without the pasta. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan with some chopped garlic and saute your spinach for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste along with a squeeze of lemon juice (for both flavor and some vitamin C).

In a salad: Spinach can be added to just about any salad—from a caesar to a chopped to a simple olive oil and vinegar variety. I like making a good vegan caesar dressing with the following: 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs vegenaise, 1 tsp dijon, juice of a lemon, 1 tbs of capers (if you like them), 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (if you have it/like it), and salt and pepper to taste. (Note: if you use the capers you may not need the salt, taste it first.) Do a romaine and fresh spinach mix and add anything you like to it: You can go traditional with croutons and parmesan, or make it more of a mixed vegetable salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Ok, your turn! What’s your favorite way to use this muscle-building age-fighter?

Photo (cc) from Flickr user srqpix

 

Eating spicy food linked with longer life in Chinese study

Spice up your diet? It may be the key to longevity.

Spice up your diet? It may be the key to longevity.  (iStock)

Firing up the flavors in your food may help you live longer: Eating spicy foods frequently may be tied to a slightly lower risk of an earlier death, according to a new study. However, more research is needed to confirm the link, experts say.

In the study, researchers asked nearly 500,000 people in China how often they ate hot, spicy foods. The participants were ages 30 to 79 when the study started, and the researchers followed up with them for about seven years, during which time about 20,000 of the people died.

The researchers found that the people in the study who ate spicy foods one or two days a week were 10 percent less likely to die during the study, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, according to the study published today (Aug. 4) in the journal The BMJ.

Moreover, the people in the study who ate spicy foods three or more days a week were 14 percent less likely to die during the study, compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week. [Extending Life: 7 Ways to Live Past 100]

However, the study was observational, and so it is too early to tell whether there is a causal relationship between eating spicy food and lower mortality, said study author Lu Qi, an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. “We definitely need more data from other populations,” Qi told Live Science.

The researchers don’t know why exactly the consumption of spicy food may be linked to lower mortality, but previous research on cells and animals has suggested several possible mechanisms, Qi said. For example, the consumption of spicy foods has been shown to lower inflammation, improve the breakdown of fat in the body and change the composition of gut bacteria, he said.

In the study, the researchers also asked the participants to specify the main sources of spices they typically used, allowing them to choose between fresh chili pepper, dried chili pepper, chili sauce and chili oil. Fresh and dried chili peppers were the most frequently used types of spices among the people who ate spicy food at least once a week, the researchers said.

However, “itis unclear whether the observed associations are the direct result of chili intake, or whether chili is simply a marker for other beneficial but unmeasured dietary components,” said Nita Forouhi, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, in a editorial published with the study in the journal.

At this point, researchers don’t know for sure whether eating spicy foods can have a beneficial effect on human health and mortality, Forouhi wrote. “Future research is needed to establish whether spicy food consumption has the potential to improve health and reduce mortality directly, or if it is merely a marker of other dietary and lifestyle factors,” she said.

New ‘Fake Meat’ Smells, Tastes And Feels Like Meat, But Is Actually Made Entirely From Plants!

What would your reaction be if someone told you that the delicious steak you were gorging on was actually made of plants? No, I’m not talking about cheap (read: horrendous) substitutes like tofu, or those godforsaken nutri nuggets. This is actually ‘fake meat’.

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Ethan Brown is the mind behind this. Founder and CEO of the startup ‘Beyond Meat’, Brown wants to manufacture fake meat by using patented technology, and plant products, eliminating animal slaughter, along with any other negatives that meat brings to the table.

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He realised that meat is nothing more than just a combination of amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, trace minerals and water. Convinced that he would only do epic stuff in life, and nothing else, he took the exact same nutrients from the plants and combined them to match the taste, texture and nutrition of real meat. Boss!

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1. But why avoid something as delicious as real meat? It’s the greatest ever, right?

Because it requires huge efforts and resources to get meat, he says. “Raising livestock is an incredibly inefficient way of producing protein. It takes a lot of land, a lot of energy, and a lot of water just to generate one pound of meat from an animal. About 30% of the animal is meat we eat; the rest is not useful.”

2. Manufacturing meat can solve a bunch of other issues like global warming, animal welfare, natural resources, and the alarming effects processed meat has on the health of humans.

3. Not to forget, it also addresses the concerns of people who have been fighting against the slaughter of animals.

While the company’s main plant is located in Missouri, it’s headquartered in El Segundo, California.

 

 

3. Not to forget, it also addresses the concerns of people who have been fighting against the slaughter of animals.
While the company’s main plant is located in Missouri, it’s headquartered in El Segundo, California.

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In fact it worked so well at blind tastings that people really could not tell the difference. Even people like Bill Gates and the founders of Twitter got up and took notice of Beyond Meat. Bill Gates even went out to call it the future of food for humans. Writing a blog post describing his experience of having a Chicken Taco made from plants at Beyond Meat, he said – “Like most people, I don’t think I can be easily fooled. But that’s just what happened when I was asked to taste a chicken taco and tell whether the meat inside was real or fake. The meat certainly had the look and the smell of chicken. I took a bite and it had the taste and texture of real chicken, too. But I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t an ounce of real chicken in it. The ‘meat’ was made entirely of plants. And yet, I couldn’t tell the difference.”

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This is something really cool, but none of us would actually believe how authentic it feels until we test it out on ourselves. Anyhoo, if this technology does work out, it will totally change the way the food industry functions.   Keeping our fingers crossed.

Healthy Summer Snack for Kids!

Zu-Canoe Ingredients

  • 2 medium 2 inch wide zucchini
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 TSP freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP minced shallot
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 cup chopped celery
Make Zu-Canoes for you and your family! 

Trim both ends off zucchini; cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the backs so each half sits flat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4 inch shell. Finely chop the pulp; set aside.
Place the zucchini halves in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with 1/4TSP each salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on high until tender-crisp, 3-4 minutes.
Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and the remaining 1⁄4 TSP each salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Add tomatoes, cheese, basil and the reserved zucchini pulp; toss to combine. Divide the filling among the zu-canoes.Nutrition per serving: 87 calories; 4g fat (1g sat, 3g mono); 3mg cholesterol; 7g carbohydrates, 0g added sugars; 7g protein; 2g fiber; 408 mg sodium; 545mg potassium. Bonus: Vitamin C (48% DV), Vitamin A (19% DV), Zinc (30% DV), Calcium (16% DV)
Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1/2 starch, 1/2 high-fat meat

Maintaining a conscious diet of the foods you love, with healthy portions and thoughtful consumption times, is the best way to stay on track and love what you eat! See more recipes here

 

 

Cucumber & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Healthy Spring Recipe

 Cucumber & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

 cucumber-black-eyed-pea-salad-6039-ss

Ingredients 

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 TSP chopped oregano
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups peeled and diced cucumbers.
  • 1 14oz can black-eyed peas
  • 2/3 cup diced red bell pepper.
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup slivered red onion
  • 2 TBSP chopped black olives

Preparation

Whisk oil, lemon juice, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until combined.  Add cucumber, black-eyed peas, bell pepper, feta, onions and olives; toss to coat.  Serve at Room temperature or chilled.

Nutrition

Per serving: 160 calories; 10g fat (3g sat, 6g mono);  11mg cholesterol; 12g carbohydrates; 5g protein; 3g fiber; 270mg sodium; 273mg potassium.

Bonus: Vitamin C (50% DV), Vitamin A (15%DV)

Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1/2 starch, 1/2 very lean meat, 2 fat

Resource: Eatingwell.com

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Provided by Kendall Taylor of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) in their March 2016 Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter.

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How to Drink Water: Stay Hydrated the Ayurvedic Way

 

Tina Shah

How many times have you been told to drink more water? Your mom tells you. Your doctor tells you. You hear about the importance of hydration at the gym or reading yet another article touting the benefits of water.

Many of us increase our water intake for a few weeks but still admit, “I don’t drink enough water,” noting our dry lips or clogged pores. Eventually, even our month-long sprint of drinking more water ends because we can’t stand peeing all the time.

Drink more water: the advice people love to give and then don’t do.

The “Drink More Water” Advice Ain’t Working, So Here’s a Better Way

Let’s have a broader conversation on how to drink water. The following is the definitive Ayurvedic guide on how to drink water properly.

The majority of our body is water. This water is stored both inside and outside cells to dissolve nutrients, carry waste, regulate body temperature, send brain messages, and lubricate all our moving parts. You need plenty of water to function and feel good. However, you lose a lot of water everyday through breathing, sweat (even if you don’t work out), urine, and bowel movements. Your only choice for perfect health is to replenish your body with ample water.

How do you know you might need more water? Here are 5 tell-tale signs:
1. Dryness: dry lips, skin, eyes, and hair
2. Inflammation: skin rashes and burns, clogged pores leading to acne, red eyes
3. Urine color: the moment you wake up your pee is dark yellow instead of light yellow (not clear)
4. Constipation: if you don’t have a bowel movement for 1 full day or longer
5. Sweat: little to no sweat

Ayurveda encourages us to drink water so that we absorb it. Many people chug water and within 20 minutes pee a clear liquid out, which means their body did not absorb the water. I used to get really fed up with this because anytime I increased my water intake, I found myself spending so much time peeing out water that I stopped drinking more liquids.

While increasing water intake does involve taking a few more trips to the bathroom (in a well-functioning body, people may pee every 3 hours), you should not be peeing out water immediately after drinking it. Thanks to Ayurveda, I learned how to absorb water effectively.

Here are 6 steps to help your body absorb water effectively:

Step 1. Drink lukewarm or hot water instead of ice cold water.
Ice cold water freezes the enzymes and fluids in your gut so your body can’t properly digest food, which creates toxic buildup. In addition, the blood vessels constrict so the toxic buildup gets stuck inside you instead of draining through your lymph (cleansing) system. Blood vessel constriction also prevents blood from circulating where it needs to be, restricting your organs from getting nutrients when they need them. Lukewarm or hot water gently encourages the natural flow of the lymph system and over time, you have less buildup. This rule is extremely important for women during menstruation or when wanting to conceive because ice cold water reduces the circulation and energy needed to prepare the reproductive organs.

Bottom line: ice cold water makes your body work harder than it needs to work.

Step 2. Add these 4 ingredients to water to increase absorption.
These ingredients bind to water molecules to make delivery into the body faster:

1. Add a teaspoon of unrefined mineral salt (not ordinary table salt but Celtic Sea Salt, Utah’s Redmond Real Salt or Pink Himalayan Salt) to every 32-ounce container of water.

2. Add a squeeze of lemon to your water.

3. Soak chia seeds for a few hours and add them to your water.

4. Add ginger slices to your water.

Want added flavor or sweetness? Soak fruit in your water to infuse it with a refreshing taste. Kiwi- Raspberry- Peach | Lemon -Cucumber -Mint | Strawberry -Basil | Pineapple-Lemon-Mint. Create your own combination. All it takes is fresh fruit and pitcher of water.

Step 3. Drink one tall glass (16oz) of warm water the moment you wake up.
Your body worked all night to package up yesterday’s waste. This is why you often have to use the bathroom first thing in the morning. To make sure the body is clean, flush your body with warm water immediately after waking up. Don’t wait until 15, 20, or 30 minutes after waking up, because then you’d just be holding on to waste instead of eliminating it. Some of this morning water might not be absorbed, but the point of drinking so much water at once is to stimulate the proper bowel movement.

To make it easy, I keep an electric teakettle in my bedroom that I fill at night and turn on when I wake up. I add mineral salt to my morning glass of water. In summer, I drink water at room temperature. You can slightly increase your early morning water intake if you’re not having a morning bowel movement. You can also decrease your intake to 8oz if you experience any abdominal pain with 16oz.

Step 4. Set a goal to drink half your body weight in ounces each day.
Here’s a real life example. I weigh 120 pounds. Half my body weight is 60 pounds, so my goal would be to drink 60 ounces of water a day. I drink 16 ounces of water as soon as I wake up, so that means I have 44 ounces left to drink during the day. If you’re outside often or very physically active, increase your water intake until you’re quenched. Heavyset people might have intercellular water retention due to years of improper diet. Talk to your doctor if you are retaining too much water.

Step 5. Find a water bottle or container and calculate how many servings you need a day to meet your goal from Step 4.
The low cost, practical way? I repurposed a 32-ounce glass juice container to be my water bottle. I drink about 2 jugs a day. When I’m on the go, I pour water from this jug into a smaller container so I still have an accurate measure when I come back.

Step 6. During the day, sip water but don’t chug – especially with meals.
When I first started drinking more water, I’d chug water at night because I kept falling short of my 2-jugs-a-day goal. I was happy I reached my goal but then I’d grumpily have to wake up during the night to pee. I never absorbed the water I chugged.

I would rather you calmly sip your warm water and fall slightly short of the goal than chug like a frat boy. Most importantly, don’t chug water with meals because you are killing the digestive fire (agni) that’s trying to process your food. Based on the same principle, you also don’t want to chug water right after a meal. Instead, 30 minutes before a meal, drink a glass of water. This hydrates the stomach’s buffering lining so it’s able to produce the sufficient stomach acid you need to digest difficult foods (dairy, eggs, nuts, etc). There’s a fine balance. Don’t drink a whole glass of water right before a meal, or you might dilute your stomach acid.

“Water before a meal is nectar. It replenishes fluids and encourages juicy digestive organs. Small sips during a meal is honey. It helps turn the food into a sauce. Water after a meal is poison because it dilutes stomach acids.” – Dr. Vasant Lad

The following is an ideal water intake guide for the average person:

Daily Water Target
• Wake up: Drink two 8-ounce glasses of water (this will flush your body)
• Breakfast: Sip water with breakfast as needed
• Between breakfast and lunch: Drink at least 1 glass of water
• 30-45 minutes before lunch: Drink 1 glass of water over 15 minutes
• Lunch: Sip water with lunch as needed
• Between lunch and dinner: Drink at least 1 glass of water
• 30-45 minutes before dinner: Drink 1 glass of water over 15 minutes
• Dinner: Sip water with dinner as needed
• Between dinner and bedtime: Drink at least 1 glass of water (if you drink a lot of water too close to bedtime, you might wake up in the night to pee)
• Sit down when you drink water. You eat sitting down to focus your body on digesting food. Give your body the same peace when you sip water.

Exercise Water Target
• 15-30 minutes before exercise: Drink 1 glass of water
• During exercise: Sip water
• After exercise: Drink 1 glass of water

Final Step: As you form the proper water habits, look for signs of hydration in your body.

In 1 month, you will see results. Check your hands and lips to see if they are less dry. Look at your face to see if blemishes are starting to clear. Assess the overall shine of your hair and skin. You might start to notice you feel less tired in the morning and have more energy to sustain you throughout the day. Welcome to the glorious world of hydration!

Happy hydrating, my thirsty friends!

 

7 Miracle Spices With Huge Health Benefits (and Big Flavor)


Photo via Flickr

Spice up your life with these herbs, roots, and plants that benefit your health as much as they do your taste buds: From keeping your heart healthy and your arteries clear to reducing pain and warding off cancer, these everyday flavors will add a healthy punch to all your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

1. Chili Peppers


Photo via liza31337 @ FlickrAdd some heat to your dish with chili peppers — and choose versions that are especially spicy to get the maximum amount of capsaicin. Capsacin, the ingredient that provides the plants with their spice, also has medical benefits that include pain relief, heart health, fighting prostate cancer, and stopping ulcers. If you’re ready to take on the hottest peppers out there, try habanero or Scotch bonnet; for less of a jolt, try jalapenos, Spanish pimentos, or cherry peppers.

2. Cinnamon

Photo via FotoosVanRobin @ FlickrYou already love cinnamon in pumpkin pie, cinnamon rolls, raisin bread, and cinnamon sugar topping, but there are healthier ways to reap the benefits of this power spice: Add it to your coffee, sprinkle it on oatmeal, stir it into peanut butter for celery sticks, and dash on sweet potatoes or carrots. While it brings out (and warms up) the flavors in the foods it is paired with, cinnamon will also help keep your arteries healthy, manage blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol.

3. Tumeric

Photo via FotoosVanRobin @ FlickrBrightly-colored turmeric comes from the same family of spices as ginger — which means both plants can reduce inflammation in arthritis patients (and may block the formation of some cancers). Try it in a curry chicken dish from Planet Green’s Kelly Rossiter — and then add black pepper, since that tabletop staple is believed to help the body absorb turmeric for maximum effect.

4. Parsley

Photo via Joylitas @ FlickrIt’s easy to ignore that little piece of parsley that always arrives next to your main dish, especially when it seems little more than a decoration (even if the bright flavor does fight bad breath).

But this early spring green has been connected to health since the days of the Romans, and today its supporters believe the herb helps pass kidney stones, battle deafness, and prevent buildup in the arteries.

5. Oregano

Photo via Annie Mueller@ Flickr

When you shake extra oregano onto your slice at the local pizza joint you aren’t just adding some classic Italian flavor to your pepperoni-and-mushroom: Oregano is a major source of thymol and carvacol — two antibacterial agents that fight off infection — and has quadruple the antioxidants of blueberries. Like thyme, it’s easy to grow at home and adds traditional flavor to any dish whether you use it fresh or dried.

6. Garlic

Photo víafelipe_gabaldon @ Flickr

Love garlic or hate it, you can’t deny that it’s good for you: As a staple of natural remedies and traditional medicine, garlic has anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral effects, and some studies show that it can stop blood clots from forming in your arteries. It’s also an easy spice to add into your diet: Try it in pasta sauce, on pizza, roasted with other vegetables, or finely chopped in homemade spreads.

7. Thyme

Photo via Erutuon @ Flickr

The strong flavor of thyme pairs well with comfort food — think wintry soups, stews, and roasts — and it’s easy to grow at home with full sun and well-drained soil, so you can use it fresh or dried all year-round.

But the health benefits go beyond warm soup on a cold night: The herb’s oil is antiseptic and antibacterial, and recent studies show thyme can kill MRSA infections, which are resistant to other antibiotics.

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