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The health benefits of holiday spices

Nothing says the holidays like the aroma and flavour of these amazingly nutritious spices

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Spice up your love life

Nutmeg has long been grown as an aphrodisiac, though the evidence is largely anecdotal. Scientists at the University of Guelph have reviewed the research showing nutmeg increased sexual activity in animals, but say more study is needed. (Meanwhile, why not grate a little extra nutmeg on your low-fat eggnog?)

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drinking coffee tea

Reduce PMS symptoms

A U.S. study found that women who ate high amounts of manganese each day had fewer cramps and mood swings than those who ate the least. Add a generous sprinkling of cardamom when you brew coffee or make hot chocolate: One teaspoon (5 mL) has 32 percent of your daily needs. Or add ground cloves to a curry: A teaspoon has 36 percent.

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An antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Cloves seem to be packed with nutrients. They are one of the best sources of antioxidants, the compounds that help fight off disease-causing free radicals in our bodies. Plus, a recent animal cell study in the Journal of Lipid Research showed that the oil from cloves can inhibit COX-2, a protein that sparks inflammation.

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Stave off serious medical conditions

A recent U.S. study showed that cinnamon may contribute to the alleviation and prevention of insulin resistance and other signs of metabolic syndrome-an array of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. After consuming cinnamon and/or its water-soluble extracts, participants with these conditions showed beneficial effects on glucose, insulin levels and sensitivity, lipids and blood pressure, among others.

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smelling spices cinnamon

Boost brain activity

Cinnamon’s aroma doesn’t just warm your kitchen-it can also perk up your brain. A study in the North American Journal of Psychology showed that a whiff of cinnamon, or chewing cinnamon gum, stimulated the cognitive process and improved scores in working memory and visual-motor response speed.

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Fight morning sickness

Ginger is used to soothe upset stomachs and fight motion sickness. Now, Toronto researchers have reviewed the key studies for treating nausea and vomiting due to pregnancy, and recommend ginger as a “safe, effective and inexpensive solution.” (Check with your doctor before taking.)

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