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Seasoning your way to a healthy lifestyle

Wednesday - 4/4/2012, 10:58am  ET

spice
Household spices like cinnamon and basil are health powerhouses. (Courtesy Des Moines University)

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Spicing up the cooking in your kitchen can help your body reap serious health benefits.

Yahoo Health reports that a number of everyday spices have super healing powers.

Sage, for example, not only smells good, it's linked to improved memory and mood. It and rosemary also have Carnosic acid, an antioxidant believed to protect the brain from free-radicals -- perhaps lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Thyme has anti-microbial properties and contains thymol oil, which is used as a fungicide and antiseptic. Listerine and some "green" household cleaners contain thymol oil.

Yahoo Health also includes cinnamon among its list of super spices because of cinnamon's cardiovascular benefits. Check the ingredient label though - cassia is often used in place of cinnamon, but it isn't the real thing. Stronger concentrations of antioxidants are found in Ceylon cinnamon, true cinnamon.

Turmeric is a powerhouse. Studies on people, in test-tubes and with animals show a myriad of body benefits. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, fends off cancer growth as well as the brain plaque linked to Alzheimer's. It's also an anti-inflammatory that's as good as ibuprofen for osteoarthritis in the knee. Turmeric even helps regulate triglyceride and insulin levels, benefiting your heart.

Basil, commonly associated with Italian food, is traditionally used in India to treat asthma, stress and diabetes.

Saffron, chili peppers and ginger also are highlighted for their healing powers.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)