Researchers have found that the enzymes and oils that give spices their flavors and preservative properties also contain powerful anti-inflammatory characteristics that can benefit our bodies. This is an important benefit since inflammation is thought to underlie a slew of chronic diseases--including cancer, diabetes, allergies and heart disease. Tapping into the benefits of these spices only requires a willingness to experiment with their different flavors. Here is a guide to the five most healthful spices, along with some advice on how to prepare them.
Cumin: When added to hot milk, this bitter, pungent and slightly sweet spice aids in the treatment of the common cold. Cumin also eases stomach pain and studies suggest that it may reduce the risk of liver cancer. This strong spice can be added early to meat, potato or bean dishes to add a mellow, rich flavor.
For the freshest flavor, try buying your spices whole--cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, ginger root--and grate, slice or grind them yourself in a coffee grinder. (However, you might want to have a grinder dedicated to the task so you can avoid, say, turmeric-flavored coffee.)
Source: Natural Health Journal 2010; 40.2: 62-65