Your Spice Rack Holds Hidden Power

A recent study examined the effects of spices not for just their antioxidant power, but also their ability to rev your metabolism after a meal.

July 29, 2011

A study found that pepper and other spices provide benefits beyond flavor.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Using spices while cooking makes food taste, smell, and look good, but we rarely realize that adding spices to the food we eat benefits our bodies long after we’ve cleared our plates. Spices are a well-known source of antioxidants, which ease the oxidative stress that affects our health in all sorts of ways. And a small study released in the Journal of Nutrition hints at even more powers of spices, relating to post-meal plasma antioxidant status and metabolism.


Six healthy, overweight men were given a controlled meal and a test meal (containing 14 grams of spices). The control meal included coconut chicken, cheese bread, and a cookie. The spices in the test meal included black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, ginger , oregano, paprika, rosemary, and turmeric. These were used to make chicken curry, herbed bread, and a cinnamon cookie. Blood samples were drawn before the meals, then in 30-minute increments for 3½ hours after the meals. Researchers found that eating the spices improved blood antioxidant levels. Also, indicators of metabolic activity, insulin and triglyceride levels, for instance, were healthier after the spiced meal than after the meal without the spices. Larger than normal amounts of spices were used; further studies will examine effects of more typical amounts. However, this study strongly suggests that eating spices on a daily basis helps metabolism and increases antioxidant capacity in the body, according to the researchers.

So it’s probably a good idea to learn to cook with spices … You’ll get health benefits with each bite!

Try Tumeric .
Savor Cinnamon .
Flavor with Paprika.

For more recipes featuring super-powerful spices, search the Rodale healthy recipe finder .