Brain Healthy Spices™ and Brain Healthy Herbs™  (c) 2012 Nancy B. Emerson Lombardo, Ph.D.

A leading innovative feature of our evidence-based brain healthy nutrition program,  MEMORY PRESERVATION NUTRITION®, is its emphasis on herbs and spices.
Some of our favorites for cooking and food preparation purposes include: cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, sage, oregano, parsley, lemon balm, green tea (green tea qualifies as an herbal) and….yes, chocolate. OK dark chocolate isn’t a spice exactly but it is a powerful antioxidant and is used as flavouring for foods, and so long as either just the pure cocoa solids are used, or the resulting mix with sugar and cocoa butter contains at least 60% cocoa solids, the resulting confection is brain healthy  (see link to our chocolate newsletter Feb 2012).

Our recipes use lots of spices, especially cinnamon (link to the recipe section) and sometimes ginger, (link to the Carrot Tomato Ginger soup, also page 1) turmeric or curry, or others.
Herbs and Spices are brain healthy for several key reasons, all central to our MPN™ strategies:

  • All herbs and spices are potent anti-oxidants.  Many are very concentrated so that just a small amount rivals much larger quantities of fruits and vegetables which are also great brain foods.  For example, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon has as much anti-oxidant power (ORAC value) as 1/3-1/2 cup of blueberries. (link to cinnamon newsletter)
  • We have created a chart comparing the ORAC values of various healthy foods including leading spices and herbs (link)
  • All herbs and spices as strong anti-oxidants are at least mildly or moderately anti-inflammatory.  Many herbs and spices are strongly anti-inflammatory including:
    • turmeric
    • ginger (link to brain healthy recipes containing ginger, page 1 soup)
    • oregano
    • rosemary
    • cinnamon (link to cinnamon newsletter)
  • Many herbs and spices help lower blood sugar and help keep our insulin on an even keel.   These include
    • cinnamon (link to cinnamon newsletter)
    • turmeric
  • Some help lower cholesterol. (All help at least a little because of their fiber and anti-oxidant properties).
    • cinnamon
    • turmeric

In addition to helping accomplish the strategies of the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program, herbs and spices help make our foods more delicious and facilitate using less of flavors that could be detrimental to our brain health such as sweet (e.g. from sugar) and fat from saturated animal fats.

  • In addition, several spices and herbs have been identified as directly helping our brains…either by enhancing the memory chemical acetyl choline in our brains (sage, lemon balm aka melissa and saffron – reported by 3 separate small clinical trials) or by improving our mood.
  • Parsley lowers blood pressure and is a natural diuretic.
  • Furthermore, many herbs and spices kill or retard harmful microbes such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, helping our overall  health and boosting our immune systems.
  • To learn more, subscribe to our e-newsletters or contact Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo at nemerson@healthcareinsights.net
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