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Spice up your holidays with brain-healthy seasonings

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Author: 
Uma Naidoo, MD
Published Date: 
7 December 2016
Publication: 
Havard Health Blog
Original article: 

Many of the flavorings that add a special touch to our favorite holiday foods confer the gift of brain health at the same time. Researchers have discovered that cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices that we mix into baked goods and savory dishes contain nutrients that sharpen memory, reduce stress, or improve sleep, among other benefits.

Delicious and beneficial

Your kitchen cabinet contains a number of seasonings that have been linked to positive effects on brain health and functioning. These flavorings are often incorporated into holiday cooking, adding a special touch to our holiday festivities. Spices and herbs have a long history as a safe component of human diets and traditional health practices. Their effects on the brain can be significant, and we need more research to determine the potential of using compounds found in common seasonings as medications.

I don’t recommend taking any spice in large quantities, and it’s always best to check with a doctor before making significant changes in your diet. However, unlike many pharmaceutical products, common seasonings generally cause no undesirable side effects for most individuals when used as part of a normal diet. Enjoying them all year long — not just during the holidays — seems to be a natural and delicious way to strengthen the brain.

Many herbs and spices contain nutrients that have been linked to brain benefits, and ongoing research is adding to the list of their positive effects. The seasonings most likely to be featured in cakes, cookies, breads, and favorite savory dishes served over the holidays are described below.

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