By Dr. Dave Kaminskas
There are many different options of how to stay healthy that we have control over. I was reminded of this as I reviewed a recent article in the medical literature. A group of doctors did a prospective study of over 500,000 people on their use of certain spices. They were put into four groups. Using spices: never, one or two days per week, three to five days per week, and six or seven days a week. The spices were chili sauce, fresh chili pepper, dried chili pepper, chili oil and several other spices.
The participants who ate the spices six or seven days a week had a 14 percent less chance of dying from cancer, coronary heart disease and lung diseases over the course of the study, which was for an average of about seven years. Spices have been known to enhance health for some time.
One example is the use of red pepper that has been shown to reduce appetite and therefore obesity. Spices can be antibacterial in the gut and also reduce the risk of diabetes and liver disease. One of the active ingredients in spices is capsaicin, which has been shown to reduce the incidence of cancer.
There has been a growing trend in food preparation to add more spices and that appears to be a good thing. I have personally been very wimpy when it comes to eating spicy hot food. In fact my four daughters have made fun of me when out of peer pressure I have tried to eat something out of my comfort zone that provides some heat, and then have to slug down multiple glasses of the available beverage to put out the fire. Meanwhile, they just smile and enjoy the spicy food without any hint of distress.
Let me review several other recent studies whose results have surprised me. Up until recently I would counsel my patients who liked to drink regular soda to switch to diet soda to try to reduce their risk of weight gain. It just made sense to me that eliminating about 140 calories that come in a can of pop was the healthy thing to do. Now there is proof that drinking diet sodas actually worsens obesity and in particular increases belly fat. Increased waist circumference has been associated with an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, cancer and overall mortality.
The reason for actual weight gain with diet soda consumption is speculative. It may be that artificial sweeteners affect the brain and metabolic rate or it may be as simple as diet soda enthusiasts believe they have the right to eat more because, after all, they just drank a diet drink. My advice, for the most part, is to eliminate any type of soda from your diet (apologies to Coke and Pepsico). You can’t go wrong with water; an all-natural drink with no calories created by God the Father.
Another recent study showed that one or two cups of caffeinated coffee per day reduce the incidence of dementia (cognitive impairment) as we age. So don’t feel guilty if you like to partake in a few cups of java each day. The threshold where coffee may begin to be harmful is in the range of greater than four cups per day, so don’t overdo.
We have been blessed with many wonderful natural options here on earth that no doubt God created for our use and pleasure. Spices, water and coffee are just a select few. Stay natural, stay healthy and enjoy the many gifts from God.