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A healthy diet does not have to be bland or boring. On the contrary, a pinch or dash of the right spice can make an otherwise ordinary meal taste truly extraordinary. Of course, many chefs and foodies are already well aware of this. But, some people may not know that in addition to tasting good, certain spices can provide health benefits as well. For instance, some spices are believed to be helpful in warding off cancer.

Here are some culinary favorites that can boost both the flavor of your meals and your overall health:

  • Turmeric – Also known as curcumin, turmeric has been used in curry dishes for centuries. Research suggests that certain substances in turmeric (curcuminoids) can reduce inflammation by inhibiting the molecules that cause inflammatory responses. This is significant because chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer. Curcuminoids are also powerful antioxidants that can potentially neutralize free radicals, which can cause DNA damage that leads to cancer.
  • Garlic – A nutrient-dense allium vegetable, garlic contains high levels of organosulfur compounds, which have both immune-strengthening and anti-carcinogenic properties. Specifically, allyl sulfur compounds can make rapidly dividing cancer cells more vulnerable to the stresses of division, and thus potentially inhibit tumor growth.
  • Ginger – A tropical plant used for thousands of years in the treatment of indigestion, diarrhea and nausea, ginger contains gingerol and zingerone, both of which are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can potentially provide protection against cancer.
  • Cayenne pepper – In addition to adding a spicy kick to foods, cayenne contains capsaicin, a potent antioxidant. Capsaicin can also restrict the growth of Helicobacter pylori in the digestive tract, which is a risk factor for stomach cancer.
  • Oregano – A foundation of Italian and Greek cuisine, oregano is a mint that contains carvacrol, a natural disinfectant that can help prevent the spread of cancer. Additionally, oregano can help reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when meats are cooked at high temperatures (HCAs are believed to increase cancer risk).

If you have questions about cancer prevention and nutrition, you are welcome to call Moffitt Cancer Center at 1-888-663-3488. We can help you determine the potential benefits of using common spices and dietary supplements. Or, if you’d like to become a Moffitt patient, complete our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.