FYI Daily

Spices Can Help Your Heart

Last updated: Mar 12, 2012

ripe garlic fruits with green parsley leaves

Want to help your heart? How about adding a few extra shakes of the spice bottle to your next meal?

Researchers at Penn State think spicy dishes may help lower levels of triglycerides, a specific type of fat. Triglycerides are beneficial in small amounts, but large amounts have been linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and other health problems.

Researchers had participants eat two versions of the same high-calorie dish -- one that was fairly bland, and one with an additional 14 grams of a high-antioxidant spice blend. They drew blood before and after the meals, and found that the spicier meal reduced levels of triglycerides by about one-third.

Sheila West, one of the researchers, told NPR, "It was surprising. I didn't expect such a large decrease."

Researchers also found that the spice blend helped normalize insulin levels after a big meal, which is great news for anyone with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Want to enjoy some of the health benefits at home? The spice blend used in the study included turmeric, garlic, oregano, paprika, rosemary, and ginger. But don't add 14 grams of spices to a dish without checking with your doctor. Like medications, spices and herbs can have side effects at high enough doses. A quarter-teaspoon to a half-teaspoon a few times a week, experts say, is enough to get the health benefits of most spices.