Healthy Cooking Spices for Stress Relief
In our hectic daily lives, most of us are looking for ways to help ease the effects of stress on our bodies and our minds. One of the easiest and best steps to take is to tweak your diet. Along with adding more grains and decreasing sugar, regularly using spices in your cooking can have a truly beneficial effect.
For centuries, medical specialists have found positive results from spice intake. More recently, studies like the one in the July 2006 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed results that certain spices can have as much impact on stress relief as any food.
The spices that help ease stress the most are the ones that contain nutrients with antioxidant qualities. Antioxidants keep the blood clean, clear out the toxins in our bodies, and play a part in the production of "feel good" hormones like sertonin. They strengthen depleted energy and get the body's systems to run more efficiently so we feel less fatigued, irritable and anxious.
Important Antioxidant Nutrients
clears out toxins in the body so it runs more efficiently, beta-carotene helps protect against disease.
used in hemoglobin to help get oxygen to the whole body
increases mental well being, releases endorphins into brain
repair of body tissue, strengthens immunity
nervous system regulation, building immunity
helps body combat stress
helps regulate blood sugar levels
bone strength and growth
maintains healthy blood pressure levels, fights fatigue
keeps blood healthy, prevents anemia
helps body efficiently use sugar for energy
blood sugar regulation, keeps immune system strong
regulates the heart rate and lowers blood pressure
increases resistance to illness and helps body fight off stress better
You probably have some of the most potent antioxidant spices already sitting on your shelf. So pull them out and start reaping the rewards right away!
Note: To get all you can from using dried spices, make sure they're still fresh. Here's how to tell if they need replacing:
- Check the label - the date listed will let you know approximately when to dispose of a product. But several brands like McCormick and Durkee have sites where you can test the date online for a more specific idea.
- Smell the spice - if the scent is starting to fade or isn't released even when you crush it, the spice is losing strength. When you can't smell it, chances are you won't taste it either!
- Check the color - fresher spices have brighter, fuller colors to them. So when it gets noticeably pale, it's time for a change.
The name for this spice is Latin for "sea dew", and it's needle-like leaves have a woody fragrance like pine. Rosemary is hearty, growing best in warm sunny climates. Benefits from eating or drinking rosemary include better digestion, more calmness and an improved mood.
- Vitamin A = 68.8 IU
- Vitamin B6 = .04 mg
- Vitamin C = 1.36 mg
- Calcium = 28 mg
- Folates = 6.78 micrograms
- Magnesium = 4.84 mg
- Manganese = .04 mg
Warm and fragrant, these create a great scent to the kitchen as they cook. Try pairing them with beef or lamb stew.
- 2 cups wheat flour, or mix of wheat and white
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 5 tbsp (1/3 cup) margarine or vegetable oil blend
- 3/4 cup low fat milk
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Stir together the dry ingredients. With two knives, cut in the margarine until it is broken into little "pebbles" in the dough. Slowly stir in the milk, then put onto a floured surface and kneed for 1 minute.
- Use a cookie cutter or small glass to cut the dough into rounds. Put them about 1/2 apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden on top.
Latin for "joy of the mountains", this bitter spice is usually associated with Italian food like pizza. It comes in different strengths ranging from Mexican to Spanish. Regular use can help calm nerves and ease indigestion, and reduce headache pain.
- Vitamin A = 6903 IU
- Vitamin C = 50 mg
- Vitamin E = 19 mg
- Vitamin K = 621 microgram
- Calcium = 1576 mg
- Folates = 274 microgram
- Iron = 44 mg
- Magnesium = 270 mg
- Manganese = 4.67 mg
- Potassium = 1669 mg
- Zinc = 4.43 mg
Making Oregano Tea:
Steep 1 tsp of dried or 3 tbsp of crushed fresh leaves into 8 ounces of boiling water for 8-10 minutes. Remove the leaves with a strainer.
This favorite spice is made by drying the bark of the cinnamomum tree native to Sri Lanka, but also found in other countries such as India and China. The final product comes in both stick and ground form, and offers a natural way to increase alertness while lowering anxiety levels.
- Vitamin A = 295 IU
- Vitamin C = 3.8 mg
- Vitamin E = 10.44 mg
- Vitamin K = 31.2 microgr
- Calcium = 1002 mg
- Folates = 6 microgr
- Iron = 8.32 mg
- Magnesium = 60 mg
- Manganese = 17.4 mg
- Potassium = 431 mg
- Zinc = 1.83 mg
Ways to Use Cinnamon:
Sprinkle some on oatmeal or toast
Drop a cinnamon stick into a glass of apple cider
Mix with honey in vanilla tea
Use as part of a pork rub with cumin and brown sugar
Add to cooked brown rice and raisins
These buds of the clove evergreen tree are grown in places such as Indonesia, parts of Africa, India and Sri Lanka. Clove oil is used in incense and soap, and has been found to be a very effective aid in relieving stress, and helping to ease insomnia and relax tight muscles.
- Vitamin A = 13 IU
- Vitamin C = 11.7 mg
- Vitamin E = .19 mg
- Vitamin K = 14.8 microgr
- Calcium = 44 mg
- Folates = 68 microgr
- Iron = 1.28 mg
- Magnesium = 60 mg
- Manganese = .256 mg
- Potassium = 370 mg
- Zinc = 2.32 mg
Making Clove Tea
Use a spice or small coffee grinder to break up enough whole cloves to make 1 tablespoon. Add them directly into 1 cup of boiling water and let them steep for about 20 minutes. Strain out the pieces. Add some honey or a piece of ginger candy in for extra warmth of flavor.
This root plant originated in Asia, but now is harvested in Caribbean and Africa. It has been revered for centuries for it's pain reducing abilities, notably for stress headaches.
- Vitamin C = 5 mg
- Vitamin E = .26 mg
- Vitamin K = .1 microgr
- Calcium = 16 mg
- Folates = 11 microgr
- Iron = .60 mg
- Magnesium = 43 mg
- Manganese = .229 mg
- Potassium = 415 mg
- Zinc = .34 mg
A Fun Way To Try Ginger
1 pound fresh ginger (young, if possible)
1 pound white sugar
Peel or thoroughly wash the ginger, then thinly slice it. Put the pieces into a deep saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil, then let the ginger simmer for about 30 minutes, until clear.
Drain off the water, reserve about a 1/2 cup. Put the ginger back into the pan, and add the sugar and ginger water. Set the heat to medium high and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn down the heat to medium and let it cook, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Set the pieces on a rack to let them cool. Dip them in sugar if you like, then store them in a dry cool place in an airtight container. Enjoy them as is, or drop one into your tea - you can even shave them for toppings on cookies or ice cream!