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Spice is nice

Getting a little spicy can reduce the risk of some diseases.

• Ginger
Long used in folk medicine to increase circulation and prevent nausea, ginger has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and may inhibit the growth of certain cancers. tips: Stir minced ginger into vinaigrette, toss cooked green beans with grated ginger and sesame seeds, or add candied ginger to baked goods.

• Hot peppers
Capsaicin, the compound that gives hot peppers their fiery bite, has anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve arthritis pain. New studies show capsaicin may also prevent gastric ulcers and reduce the risk of prostate and gastric cancers. tips: Add cayenne pepper to steamed vegetables, stir finely minced serrano peppers into cooked black beans, or sprinkle chili powder on popcorn.

• Turmeric
This brilliant yellow spice gets its coloring from curcumin, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Studies suggest that curcumin lowers cholesterol, reduces cancer risk, and may prevent Alzheimer's disease. tips: Add turmeric and cardamom to brown rice, sprinkle it on cooked vegetables, or whisk into low-fat mayonnaise for a spicy dressing or spread.

• Cinnamon
This sweet, mild spice has antimicrobial properties and contains antioxidant phenolic compounds. Recent studies show that cinnamon lowers blood glucose, improves lipid profiles, and may help protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. tips: Sprinkle it on hot cereal, stir into chai tea, or add cinnamon and honey to baked yams or winter squash.

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