If you’ve been an avid exerciser for a while, then you must know how important a role nutrition plays in achieving long term health and fitness benefits. It is universally proven and accepted that a balanced diet consisting of whole grains, lean protein, healthy fat, fruits and vegetables is they key to building lean muscle, reducing body fat and a host of other things. However, many of the healthy meals we consume on a daily basis lack one vital ingredient that helps promotes long life and good health : Herbs.
Herbs are naturally-growing plants that provide flavor and taste to food and used partly to add extra scent to fragrances. Through extensive research and study, they were known to also have some medicinal value. Although herbs have been used for hundreds of years to heal in several parts of the world, they just became an integral part of the health and fitness community not too long ago. Health experts and fitness professionals now encourage everyone to include herbs as part of their meals in an efforts to strengthen the immune system, keep the heart healthier and lower bad cholesterol.
So what herbs offer the best medicinal value and which ones should you be taking?
There isn’t a known number of herbs that exist in the world since some flowers and trees have herbaceous value. That number is debatable. But according to early findings, there are over a thousand known herbs in the world today. Figuring out which is the best may be a daunting task. However, I have been able to narrow that list to some really good ones.
Here are 5 herbs you should take:
1. TURMERIC : An origin of India, Turmeric is a spice obtained from the ginger plant family, Zingiberaceae and is widely used in cooking. It’s yellowish color gives cooked food a unique look and exudes a great aroma. Several studies have linked turmeric to having anti-inflammatory benefits, preventing colon cancer, aid in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and digestive problems. Although it’s been around for thousands of years, it’s just now becoming a mainstream phenomena in the western world. According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center, turmeric offers a multitude of anti-oxidant benefits including helping to prevent osteoarthritis, heart disease and cancer. Turmeric comes in pill, powder and tincture and can be found in local health stores and supermarkets.
2. CINNAMON : One of the most popular herb, cinnamon is a spice that’s obtained from the bark of the parent tree, Cinnamomum. It is mixed with many of our beverages, pie and cereal and offers amazing taste and flavor. Certain individuals like diabetics and arthritic patients benefit from the use of cinnamon because it helps to regulate blood sugar and reduces inflammation from cytokines in arthritic joints. Furthermore, it also reduces LDL cholesterol which automatically prevents heart disease and aids in pregnancy by helping to balance hormones and prevent infertility in women. Cinnamon can be purchased in powder version or via the common sticks.
3. GINGER : Another spice from the Zingiberaceae family, ginger is an origin of South Asia and has similar benefits to turmeric. It can be used to add taste and flavor to food and also has a big impact on the immune system by fighting off bacteria and viruses from the environment. It works as a powerful antioxidant to prevent stomach upset and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce pain in arthritic patients. Ginger also has the power to regulate blood flow and thus may help reduce blood pressure in high blood pressure patients. Further research is still being conducted on its effect in preventing and treating ovarian cancer but researchers are optimistic. Gingers comes in many forms including the raw root and powder versions, though it appears the tea is the most commonly consumed.
4. GARLIC : Just like cinnamon, garlic is another popular herb with ties to Central Asia. It’s been around for over 7,000 years and is one of the most widely used herb for cooking. Consumption of garlic is linked to reduction of the risk of colon, rectal and ovarian cancers. High blood pressure patients also benefit from eating garlic as it helps to lower blood pressure. Prevention of heart diseases and stroke are also benefits associated with garlic intake. This 2006 research study by the Medical Journal of Australis supports the impact of garlic and other herbs in lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Though garlic can be purchased as dietary supplements, the natural, raw plant seems to offer the best benefits.
5. DANDELION : This may be one of the hidden gems in the herbaceous family. Dandelion can be found on flowers, leaves and roots of many of the trees in around us. In fact, they are so accessible that they can be obtained directly from trees and brought home to be used to make tea. Though its medicinal value has received little scientific research, some studies show correlation to cleansing the liver, treating acne problems, lowering blood pressure and prevention of breast and prostate cancers. New findings suggest it can also help alleviate premenstrual issues, cure urinary infections and act as a diuretic to eliminate excess water weight gain. Dandelion root is available in capsule and tincture forms for consumption. Some health stories also sell the natural leaves which can be purchased and consumed as a food or mixed with other vegetables.