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Seasonings That Help Your Health

Herbs
CBS/The Early Show
There's always a lot of attention paid to the health benefits of what's in food, but what about what's on our food?

NYU Medical Center clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm that many seasonings not only make food taste good but are good for you.

Those herbs and spices do double-duty, but don't expect to see whole meals made of them. Heller says that many of them are simply too strong and pungent to eat alone. They're great taste enhancers, but you probably wouldn't like a salad made exclusively of basil greens, whose ursolic acid may suppress cancer cells.

Still, it's good to know what the healthful properties are because including certain seasonings in your diet can have a protective effect over time.

Herbs and spices come in various forms — such as dried, raw and granulated — and, Heller points out, no one form is healthier than any other. For instance, crystallized ginger is just as beneficial as raw.

As for some specific seasonings:

Cinnamon

It's been used for centuries in fragrances, perfumes, as a spice in foods, and for ailments ranging from indigestion to influenza.

A conventional folk remedy, cinnamon's healing qualities don't have a lot of scientific research to support them yet. One notable exception is a recent clinical study that found cinnamon may help improve glucose and lipids in people with Type 2 diabetes. If you're a Type 2 diabetic or you are insulin resistant, try including some cinnamon in your diet.

Cinnamon powder, bark and teas are widely available in most stores.

Turmeric

Turmeric, a spice grown in India, China and southern Asia, is best known as the bright yellow spice in curry powder and mustard.

Curcumin is a compound that's been isolated from turmeric and has many healing properties. In particular, curcumin acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that helps protect the body's cells against cancer and tumor growth.

Research also shows that curcumin may help reduce the progression of coronary vascular disease and retina problems associated with Type 2 diabetes.