3 spices to replace your coffee

IMAG0136.jpgHow to determine if this post is for you:

  1. You have trouble waking up in the morning
  2. Once awake, you have little incentive to keep moving
  3. You crash by mid-afternoon
  4. You are consistently dehydrated, but aren’t excited by the idea of glugging glass after glass of water all day
  5. You’re looking for a healthy beverage to boost metabolism, reduce inflammation and bloating, and calm sugar cravings

Interested? Good!

Spices have long been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine (alternatives to traditional western medicine) to treat various ailments and supplement regular nutrition. I’m going to delve into the science behind three powerful spices and how to incorporate them into a daily routine.

Cayenne Pepper – Boosts metabolism

If you are familiar with the “Master Cleanse” drink, cayenne pepper is the main event. While I do not advocate for an all-liquid joyless detox, there is science behind the ingredients used in the drink. The metabolism-boosting property of cayenne comes from its ability to literally burn your calories: it raises your body temperature, in turn raising your metabolism. According to a study by two Purdue researchers, half a teaspoon with a meal helps suppress appetite and increase calorie burn. They found cayenne can burn 10 extra calories up to four hours after a meal.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even cites cayenne pepper as an effective way to reduce blood sugar and help fight insulin resistance, a common cause of diabetes.

Turmeric – Reduces inflammation and bloating

Turmeric not only gives curry its telltale yellow color, but also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Its healthy properties come from curcumin, an antioxidant found in turmeric. Turmeric supplements contain high concentrations of curcumin, making them Nature’s Advil. The German Commission E, which determines which spices and supplements can be prescribed as medication, has approved turmeric for treating indigestion and bloating as well.

You can still reap turmeric’s benefits in spice form, but be sure to combine it with black pepper. Black pepper keeps the liver from metabolizing the curcumin too quickly. Without the pepper, it would be tough to consume enough curcumin to ease a swollen knee or bulging stomach.

Cinnamon – Balances blood sugar

It’s no accident that cinnamon and sugar found bliss in holy recipe matrimony: cinnamon decreases the amount of glucose that enters the blood stream after a meal, which would otherwise cause a spike in blood sugar. The crash in blood sugar that follows a spike sends you running for chocolate. Taking away sugar imbalances helps you fight these cravings. Along with turmeric, it can even reduce the body’s negative responses to high-fat meals. 

There are two types of cinnamon you can buy: ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is the “true” cinnamon, while cassia is commonly found in grocery stores. Cassia actually contains a higher concentration of coumarin, a dangerous compound in large doses. If you want to safely reap the health benefits of cinnamon, make sure you purchase the ceylon variety in a health food or spice specialty store.

These spices can all be combined in a delicious curry recipe, which I will post at a later date. My personal favorite method is a twist on the “Master Cleanse” tea. Drink one in the morning and any other time to replace water, coffee, tea or soda.

Lemon Spice Tea

8-12 ounces water (a personal mug-full)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 medium lemon, juiced (or 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice)
pinch of black pepper

Heat water and stir ingredients well. Some of the spice may fall to the bottom…that’s okay! Treat them like tea leaves at the bottom of the glass.

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