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Study finds 13 spices that help fight inflammation, disease

August 13, 2020 (Updated: August 1, 2021)
Lily Moran

Spices are a great way to add delicious, sodium-free, zero-calorie flavor to your food. But more than that, research continues to show that taste is just one of the health benefits of spices.

Studies have already confirmed the many benefits of spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic, but the latest research out of Penn State University has found that a blend of 13 spices can lower inflammation after a high-fat/carb meal, too.

This is great news, especially considering inflammation is a huge concern in our country.

In the United States, inflammation is associated with multiple conditions including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, so anything that can fight this major risk factor is a tremendous health boon.

A Spicy Discovery

The Penn State study followed 12 overweight or obese men between the ages of 40-65. All of them had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

All 12 of the participants ate three versions of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal on separate days: one meal had no spices, the second contained 2 grams of the spice blend, and the third included 6 grams of the same spice blend. (Depending on how spices are dehydrated, 6 grams equates to roughly 1-3 teaspoons.)

Blood samples were taken before eating, and again every hour for four hours after finishing the meal, to measure markers of inflammation.

The 13 spice blend used in the study consisted of basil, bay leaf, black and red pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.

The study found that of all the meals, the one that contained the highest amount of spice conferred the greatest benefit: significantly lower blood levels of inflammatory compounds called cytokines.

While the researchers acknowledged that they can’t be sure exactly which spices (or combinations) contributed to these positive effects, the results still suggest that spices have anti-inflammatory properties that help to offset the detrimental inflammation caused by too much fat and carbs in a meal.

Which brings us to our next point…

Spice Things Up for Better Health

The spices in this study were shown to lessen the negative impact of a single unhealthy meal—but you shouldn’t use spices to try to dampen the potential inflammatory effects of unhealthy meals, in general.

Instead, start with an already-healthy meal, since adding spices to nutritious food further amplifies its existing health benefits.

One of our favorite healthy spices to include while cooking is turmeric. If you are a fan of Indian cuisine, you already know about turmeric—the golden yellow spice that is the main ingredient in curries.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Curcumin—the active component in turmeric—has a ton of research supporting its anti-inflammatory properties and effects on everything from brain and heart health to immunity, arthritis, and cancer.

If nothing else, consider adding some turmeric to your food for these tremendous benefits.

Or, if the taste of turmeric doesn’t appeal to you, you can always take a curcumin supplement. Look for curcumin that has high absorption (skip the ones with piperine as that can irate your stomach).

Newport Natural Health, for example, offers a best-selling curcumin formula that may be right for you. It’s a powerful inflammation fighter up to 40 times stronger than ordinary curcumin. Plus, it includes added antioxidant support to help you once again enjoy pain-free joints, a healthy cardiovascular system, a sharp memory and more. Learn more about this popular custom formula here.

And if you like Asian food, then you’re probably familiar with ginger—another well-studied spice that has been shown to not only have anti-inflammatory properties but also acts as a great nausea reliever and digestive aid.

Find Your Own Blend

When you include either fresh or dried spices in your cooking you’ll get excellent benefits and few, if any, downsides. And feel free to experiment with different blends to find the right one for you.

To be honest, it’s anyone’s guess if the particular combination of spices used in the above study actually tasted good—there are definitely a lot of different flavor profiles in that mix!

But the point is, have fun and try out new combinations to see what you like and don’t like. And as research shows, the more the better!

Your taste buds will probably enjoy it, but more than anything, your body will thank you.

Take good care.


Oh ES, et al. Spices in a high-saturated-fat, high-carbohydrate meal reduced postprandial proinflammatory cytokine secretion in men with overweight or obesity: A 3-period, crossover, randomized controlled trial. J Nutr. 2020 Jun:150(6):1600-9. Last accessed June 15, 2020.

Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Last Updated: N/A 
Originally Published: August 13, 2020

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