6 Healthy Spices For Tasty Meal Prep and Improved Health
I firmly support the notion that “variety is the spice of life.” But did you know that a variety of spices can add years to your life and life to your years?
Nearly every civilization since the dawn of mankind and cuisine currently available in the 21st century incorporates spices. A spice is “an aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavor food.” 
Before we continue let’s first make a distinction between spices and herbs. Spices come from the seed, fruit, root, bulb, or bark whereas herbs come from the leaves, flowers, or stems of the plant.  In simplifier terms, most herbs come from the leaves and spices come from every other part of the plant. Both herbs and spices are available in fresh and dried forms.
The six spices discussed in this article offer numerous health benefits like increased metabolism, improved immunity, decreased inflammation, and lowered blood sugar. For each spice, we will examine the benefits, nutrition profile, and popular recipes incorporating the spice.
If you can’t stand the taste or smell of one of the spices discussed in the article, then head over to the Tiger Fitness web store to find easy-to-swallow versions in capsule and tablet form.
6 Spices Everyone Should Stock
#1 – Cayenne Pepper
If you love dishes with a kick or would go so far as to say you enjoy sweating during a meal, then cayenne pepper is for you. Cayenne pepper, most commonly sold in a dried powder form, comes from the fruit of the plant species Capsicum annuum.
This red-hot spice contains the phytochemical capsaicin, a compound responsible for cayenne pepper’s spiciness that also offers a slew of health benefits. Capsaicin burns fat and increases energy by modestly increasing your metabolic rate. 
Cayenne pepper increases the activity of the nervous system which can improve athletic performance.  For those new to spice consume cayenne pepper in small quantities to begin and slowly increase your dose over time. Excessive ingestion in one sitting can lead to an unpleasant bathroom experience.
One tablespoon (5.3 grams) of cayenne pepper powder contains 18 calories, 0.64 grams of protein, 0.92 grams of fat, 3.0 grams of carbohydrates, and a whopping 1.4 grams of fiber.  Cayenne pepper is one of the highest fiber spices as it comprises over 26% of its dry weight.
One tablespoon also contains 107 milligrams of potassium, 4 milligrams of vitamin city, 1.58 milligrams of vitamin E, and 2205 International Units (IUs) of vitamin A.5 Cayenne pepper not only helps to burn fat and ease pain but also contains a nice dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Some of my favorite recipes incorporating cayenne pepper include stuffed peppers, buffalo shrimp, and Caribbean-spiced roast chicken. Look for cayenne pepper in fat burners like Musclepharm Shred Matrix, Non-Stimulant Hydroxycut Hardcore Elite, and GAT Sport JetFuel Superburn.
#2 – Garlic
If I could only consume one spice for the rest of my life, then I’d pick garlic in a heartbeat. Adding garlic to just about any savory dish will improve the depth and cohesion of flavors.
Garlic is an edible bulb from the plant Allium sativum, which is part of the lily family but part of the larger onion genus.  It’s cousins include superstars like onions, shallots, leeks, and chives.
Garlic is as close as we can get to a miracle spice. It has powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. 
It’s commonly used to treat the common cold and prevent diseases like cancer but may also be a component in a regimen designed to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  If you’re a garlic lover be sure to wear plenty of deodorant as large consumption can cause garlic to seep in to your natural body odor.
Those on anticoagulants or with a history of excessive bleeding should avoid garlic as it could increase bleeding risk.  Thankfully, garlic is an extremely safe and beneficial spice for most of the population.
One tablespoon (9.7 grams) of dried garlic powder contains 32 calories, 1.61 grams of protein, 0.07 grams of fat, 7.05 grams of carbohydrates, 0.9 grams of fiber, and 117mg of potassium.  At this point we should note that the dry weight of one tablespoon of spice varies.
If you prefer to weigh your food on a scale instead of use tablespoons be sure to look up the tablespoon weight of that spice. While I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too much garlic, many will disagree.
The list of recipes I love which incorporate garlic can go on for pages. Some of my all-time include garlic spinach, garlic aioli, and garlic potatoes. Manufacturers include garlic in multivitamin and wellness supplements like Optimum Nutrition Opti-Men, Finaflex Active Multi, and Universal Nutrition Natural Sterol Complex.
#3 – Turmeric
Those who love Indian food and hate inflammation will love turmeric. Turmeric comes from the plant Curcuma longa which is part of the ginger family.  The root is most common dried, ground down, and used to provide a distinct yellow and delightful flavor to Indian curries.
The active ingredient, curcumin, discussed in a previous article found here, offers potent anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s also used to alleviate digestive and liver problems, decrease the redness and swelling of skin diseases and rashes, as well as expedite the healing of wounds. 
Turmeric’s strong antioxidant properties may provide a partial explanation why the rates of some cancers are significantly lower in India compared to nations like the United States. If you plan to start cooking with turmeric be forewarned that a little goes a long way and it can stain your clothes and countertops very quickly.
One tablespoon (9.4 grams) of this potent anti-inflammatory spice contains 29 calories, 0.91 grams of protein, 0.31 grams of fat, 6.31 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.1 grams of fiber.  Turmeric is another spice packed with fiber, comprising over 22% of its dry weight.
This vibrant spice also contains 196 milligrams of potassium, and nearly 33% of your recommended daily iron intake per tablespoon.10 Individuals with historically lower iron intake like anemics, vegetarians, and vegans would benefit from turmeric’s high iron content.
My top three picks for recipes incorporating turmeric include chicken tikka masala, Indian style cauliflower and potatoes, and chickpea curry. Look for turmeric in joint support supplements like Universal Nutrition Animal Flex, Core Nutritionals Core Flex, and Controlled Labs Orange Triad + Greens.
#4 – Ginger
An increasing percentage of the population now has digestive issues, food sensitives, and allergies. While ginger can cure a food allergy, it can alleviate stomach discomfort and improve digestion.
This spicy and pungent spice comes from the root of the plant Zingiber officinale. The root of the plant is dried and sold in bulk or ground in to a fine powder or paste.
Ancient Chinese, Greek, Roman, and Arabic civilizations used ginger for thousands of years to treat stomach aches, diarrhea, and nausea.  Ginger is also useful for improving digestion after a large meal high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
The medical community continues using ginger to this day to diminish the nausea experienced after surgery, while seated in a moving vehicle, during chemotherapy, or pregnancy.  Those with poor circulation may also benefit from ginger as I’ve found it increases the warmth of my fingers and toes.
One tablespoon (5.2 grams) of ground ginger has just 18 calories, 0.47 grams of protein, 0.22 grams of fat, 3.72 grams of carbohydrates, 0.7 grams of fiber, and 1.03 milligrams of iron.  While ginger doesn’t look like much from the micronutrient and macronutrient standpoint, its benefits speak for themselves. Next time you have an upset stomach or want to improve whole-body circulation then consume ginger.
My all-time favorite recipe incorporating ginger is to make ginger tea but I also love ginger dressing, lemon ginger shrimp, and pork stir fry with ginger. Manufacturers include ginger in wellness supplements like ImSoAlpha Superfood Alpha Blend and SAN Green Supreme Fusion as well as intra-workouts like Controlled Labs Purple Wraath.
#5 – Cinnamon
You don’t have to put away the ground cinnamon or fresh cinnamon sticks just because the holiday season is over. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a numerous trees in the genus cinnamomum. This brown spice offers a warmth and spice to both sweet and savory dishes.
Those watching their blood sugar should make cinnamon a staple spice in their diet as it has clinical evidence supporting its ability to lower both blood pressure and blood sugar in those with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes Cinnamon may also benefit those with gastrointestinal and appetite problems. 
It also benefits otherwise healthy individuals by blunting the insulin spike after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Adding cinnamon to this kind of meal can lessen the carbohydrate or sugar crash accompanying the meal a few hours later.
One tablespoon (7.8 grams) of ground cinnamon contains 19 calories, 0.31 grams of protein, 6.29 grams of carbohydrates, 4.1 grams and almost 8% of the recommended daily calcium intake.  For those keeping track at home, you read that fiber number correctly – nearly 53% of cinnamon’s dry weight is fiber, which partly explains why it controls blood sugar and hunger so effectively.
I love adding a few dashes of cinnamon to my protein shakes, oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies. You can also use it in granola, bread, cakes, and the ultimate treat, cinnamon rolls. Many protein bars and powders include cinnamon as a flavoring agent but it’s also included in multivitamins like Controlled Labs Orange Triad + Greens and NOW Foods Adam Multivitamin, as well as pre-workout pump-inducing products like Universal Nutrition Animal Pump.
#6 – Black Pepper
Black pepper is one of, if not the most common spice used in kitchens across the globe. This spice comes from the small round berries of the vine Piper nigrum.
Black pepper originated from southern India as spice designed to increase appetite and add warm flavor to a dish.  Some dishes incorporate whole dried peppercorns but this spice is most commonly ground and sprinkled throughout the dish.
Black pepper has powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, and gastro-protective properties due to the presence of the active phytochemical piperine.  Piperine is an alkaloid molecule with strong anti-cancer properties.  Many supplement manufacturers include black pepper in their supplement formulas because it improve the absorption of nutrients and other active ingredients found in the formula.
One tablespoon (6.9 grams) of ground black pepper has 18 calories, 0.72 grams of protein, 0.22 grams of fat, 4.41 grams of carbohydrate, 1.7 grams of fiber, and 11.3 micrograms of vitamin K.  Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin playing a critical role in normal blood clotting, bone metabolism, and protein synthesis. 
Black pepper is not only low in calories and tastes great but also has notable quantities of vitamin K, one of the most under consumed vitamins in the Standard American Diet.
Black pepper improves the flavor of just about every savory food. My personal favorites include chili, chicken wings, stuffed peppers, eggs, and salads. You can even add black pepper to strawberries if you also add a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar.
The active ingredient piperine, is found in a variety of products like the testosterone booster MTS Nutrition Barracuda, pre-workout Kali Muscle Hyphy Mud, and joint support supplement Core Nutritionals Core Flex.
What spices do you love to cook with or incorporate in to your supplement regimen? Let me know in the comments below.
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