Monday, August 15, 2011

Lower triglycerides with Spices

Spice-Up Your Gluten-Free Diet and Lower your Triglycerides

The Health-Benefits of Common Spices

I was just reading an interesting publication from the Journal of Nutrition wherein Penn State researchers were reporting their observations regarding the effects of a High Antioxidant Spice Blend (in one's diet) and how these significant amounts of various common spices could reduce the typical post-meal Insulin and Triglyceride responses while increasing antioxidants too, particularly when added to a high-fat meal.

Lowering triglycerides is certainly a good thing, since high levels of triglycerides (in your blood) are linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. And, since humans are "hard wired" to enjoy the taste of high-fat meals, if it could be as simple as adding some significant doses of culinary spices to our gluten-free diets to help lower our triglycerides, I am all for it.

Which Spices, and How Much Spice?

This particular study was not done using gluten-free foods, but that should not matter since the only difference between the "control" group and the "spice" group was just the spices — implying that it is only the spices that account for the observed reduction in insulin and triglyceride responses:
"The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to each serving of the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit. The control meal was identical, except that spices were not included." 
All of the spices used within this study are generally what I would consider "mainstream" spices — though turmeric would be the one spice I would more closely associate with Indian and/or middle-eastern cuisine, and cloves are used rather sparingly in Western dishes too from my experience (clove can quickly overwhelm other flavors). Here are the spices that were used in the study:
"In the spiced meal, we used rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika,"
If one considers all the possibilities for using such spices, many wonderful and tasty main dishes, appetizers, desserts, and even drinks come to mind. I use a LOT of cinnamon in my daily gluten-free buckwheat pancakes for example, and I enjoy making Chai Tea with Cinnamon, Cloves, and even a bit of black pepper (plus Cardamon and other complementary spices). I like turmeric, garlic, black pepper, and paprika in dishes ranging from potato salad to quinoa/rice dishes to the chicken curries (mentioned in the article).  There are many, many tasty dishes where these spices could be used to produce fantastic flavor-filled meals.

My only concern in reading this article was related to the amount of spices the researchers used: two tablespoons.  The didn't give a breakdown of how much of each spice was used, but my first thought is how I can consume a LOT of spices like cinnamon, garlic, and black pepper, but I use relatively little oregano, paprika, clove, and turmeric due to their relative "strength" (flavor-wise) in dishes.  I can consume two tablespoons of cinnamon in one batch of my pancakes, but I can hardly dream up a way to consume (in an enjoyable fashion) two tablespoons of clove at once :)

Results: Substantially Lower Triglycerides and Lower Insulin Response

The results were rather significant and encouraging:
"We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added."

Wow, 30 percent lower just from the addition of these spices!  That is certainly noteworthy. If you want to read more details, you can find the original article here I would definitely like to see some other studies confirm these results in the coming months and years.  You would think it would be very easy to do so, since the study sounded quite simple to duplicate

The results went further too:
When the meal contained a blend of antioxidant spices, antioxidant activity in the blood was increased by 13 percent and insulin response decreased by about 20 percent
The insulin-response numbers alone should be getting the attention of any researchers studying diabetes / blood-sugar conditions and treatments.  20% is a substantial number for sure.

So, whether or not spices produce this desirable lowering of triglycerides in your gluten-free diet or not, it sounds like an easy enough change to consider working into your meal program.  The cost of spices may be semi-prohibitive, but if it could offset medical costs, I'd personally choose investing in spices.  I am working on ways to add more of these spices to my own gluten-free foods on a daily basis, and it is mainly just the turmeric, paprika, and clove that I do not regularly consume, so my changes should be minimal.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.


mehr said...

Hi :)
I loved this entry. I am Pakistani living in Winnipeg and have celiacs. I feel adding spices to me dishes and new gf recipes really help me bring the flavour out and top of it spices have health benefits.My new favourite spices that bring the flavour are powdered cumin and corriander. It just adds such depth. Anyways i would love for you to check out my blog as well.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great info on spices. I actually discovered I was "gluten sensitive" when I started reducing refined carbs to lower my cholesterol. My frequent bouts with diarrea became rare instead. I haven't really gone gluten-free, but I've cut wayback on items with flour. I'm continually impressed by how general health guidelines like "minimize refined carbs" have been demonstrated to specifically help so many conditions.