Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The spice of fall

Fall is fast approaching, which is completely okay because it's undoubtedly my favorite time of year. I love summer and all that comes with it here in Maine, but autumn in New England just can't be beat. The warm days and cool nights of September are a nice relief from the humidity of August, and the crisp days and foliage in October make me want to be outside as much as possible. Not to mention fall also brings cross-country season, football season, and hunting season. What's not to love?

And then you have the food. Every food you cook or every beer you drink during the fall seems to have some sort of spice or flavor in it that define the season. We've all seen them or tasted them, but do we really know what they are or how they can benefit us? Some will be familiar, while others may seem new. Take a look and don't be afraid to try some of these spices in your favorite fall spices--

We've all seen it and tasted it, but what does it actually do? Well, aside from making bland food taste better (oatmeal, anyone?) it can help lower cholesterol, aid in digestion, and balance blood sugar. Try adding cinnamon to the aforementioned oatmeal, sliced apples, or tea.

Try sprinkling some nutmeg on your soup to reduce nausea, indigestion, anxiety, and even toothaches. Be sure to only sprinkle the nutmeg though as it is known to be toxic if consumed in large amounts. Not to mention you can also find nutmeg, along with cinnamon, in many fall beers.

We've all enjoyed ginger ale at one point, perhaps when we're sick or have a stomach ache? That's because ginger has the ability to eliminate gastrointestinal gas while relaxing the intestinal tract. Studies have actually shown that ginger is superior to the over-the-counter drug Dramamine when combating motion sickness. Ginger is also an excellent anti-inflammatory, which has been shown to lead to a reduction in arthritic pain and swelling and an increase in mobility in arthritic joints. Not to mention one teaspoon of ginger has been shown to have similar antioxidant levels as a cup of spinach. Available in several different forms from several different markets, ginger is a common ingredient in apple pie, apple sauce, Asian stir-fry, and of course, gingerbread.

While cloves are available throughout the year, they tend to be more widely used during the holiday seasons. They offer a sweet, warm taste to pumpkin pie, gingerbread, curries, marinades, and even certain types of soups. Cloves offer many health benefits such as reduction in joint inflammation and a decrease in the risk for digestive tract cancers. Clove oil has even been known to relieve toothaches!

Probably lesser known than the four mentioned above, tumeric is full of antioxidants and is great in stews, chilis, and soups. Not only is tumeric a cancer fighter, especially within the digestive system, but it can also help treat respiratory illnesses, liver illnesses, and arthritis.

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