Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…
Sure, you know how the old Simon and Garfunkel song goes.
But did you know that all four of those spices have some very healthy qualities too?
Parsley freshens the breath and improves bladder function, sage supports short-term memory, and rosemary and thyme are two of seven "super spices" because they contain unusually high levels of antioxidants.
So in addition to rosemary and thyme, S&G could have made their song an antioxidant powerhouse by adding cinnamon, ginger, red pepper, curry, and oregano. Although, good luck coming up with a rhyme for "oregano."
As hard as finding that rhyme might be (even for Paul Simon), it’s quite a bit harder to provide scientific proof that spices like oregano provide genuine health benefits.
That’s where the staff of the McCormick Science Institute (MSI) begins their work every day.
McCormick, of course, has been the big dog in the world of commercial spice production for well over 100 years. They also happen to be located here, in suburban Baltimore.
A recent Baltimore Sun article examined three surprising successes that have come out of university research funded by MSI:
- Rosemary extract, added to ground beef, reduces cancer-causing compounds created when meat is cooked at high temperature (Kansas State University)
- A hamburger prepared with antioxidant spices (oregano, rosemary, cumin, and paprika) reduced blood levels of oxidized fats (University of California)
- Post-exercise muscle pain can be reduced when two grams of ginger are consumed daily (University of Georgia)
But these are just a small sampling of the studies MSI has pursued. The MSI website (mccormickscienceinstitute.com) offers further details on a number of different research projects.
- A leading nutritionist evaluated the existing evidence that shows cinnamon may lower blood sugar and insulin levels, while also providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
- A case study from the University of Toronto showed a link between intake of capsaicin (a component of chili peppers) and a delay of PSA progression in a patient with prostate cancer
- When a European team from Italy and Poland examined curcumin (a phytochemical that gives curry its pungent flavor), they concluded: "Curcumin can counteract the pro-inflammatory state which is believed to participate in many age-related diseases."
Most of these studies are unique in that they specifically assess the value of spices as used in food preparation rather than supplement form.
When the Sun asked a Johns Hopkins professor to assess one of the studies, he gave it high marks and called it "real-life food as medicine."
Unlike medicine, however, the side effects are delicious.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
Visit www.hsionline.com to sign up for the free HSI e-Alert.
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