The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone on a special diet due to pain and inflammation. Because diet and inflammation are so intimately connected, we’ve made nutrition one of the five pillars of The Hache Protocol For Pain Resolution™, our holistic program for naturally eliminating pain. In this blog post, we offer a way to enjoy the comforting and familiar flavors of the holiday season by sharing five holiday spices that will be sure to transport you back to your grandparent’s kitchen or family dinner table without igniting the fire of inflammation, pain, and regret.
5 Holiday Spices That Benefit Your Health
Herbs and spices aren’t just excellent sources of flavor – they’re packed with health-boosting benefits. Even the oldest civilizations used spices as a food flavoring, medicine, and beauty treatments. We couldn’t think of a better way to honor your ancestors than incorporating one (or all) of our favorite holiday spices into your family’s celebrations this year.
Whether in pumpkin pie, warm apple cider, or fresh pastries – no spice is more evocative of the holidays than cinnamon. There are two types of cinnamon, Ceylon (or Chinese cinnamon) and Cassia cinnamon – which is much more common on grocer’s shelves. Cinnamon has a variety of health benefits that stem from compounds found in cinnamon oil.
Health benefits of cinnamon:
- A 2015 review found cinnamon to be a helpful add-on therapy in managing type 2 diabetes due to the presence of manganese, an essential mineral for blood sugar regulation.
- Antioxidant anti-inflammatory – cinnamon’s polyphenol antioxidants provide anti-inflammatory properties.
- Antifungal – one study found cinnamon effective against candida (the yeast overgrowth that causes sugar and carbohydrate cravings).
- Two compounds found in cinnamon, epicatechin and cinnamaldehyde, were found to be helpful in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in scientific studies.
Eating too much cinnamon is a bad idea if you have liver problems, as it can make them worse. Some doctors suggest that pregnant women, children, and women who are breastfeeding avoid cinnamon as a treatment due to a lack of studies on its effects. But consuming an average amount of cinnamon should be safe for most people.
Nothing compares to the comforting aroma of clove and orange around the holidays. But did you know cloves are actually a health-boosting spice?
Health benefits of clove:
- Cloves are a nutrient-dense food containing vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
- Clove has a high concentration of manganese, an essential mineral for healthy brain function.
- Clove has antioxidant properties.
- One study found clove to be helpful in halting the growth of tumors while promoting cell death in cancer cells.
- The antimicrobial properties of cloves have been shown to kill three common types of bacteria, including E. coli.
- An animal study found clove extract to help moderate blood sugar and diabetes.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with some cancers should avoid consuming cloves in medicinal doses, but as a seasoning for your holiday spread, cloves are considered safe for just about everyone to eat!
Perfect for sweet and savory applications, nutmeg originates from a tree found in South India and the Caribbean.
Health benefits of nutmeg:
- Nutmeg is high in the minerals zinc, magnesium, and potassium.
- Boost your brainpower, improve focus, and balance neural pathways with myristicin and macelignan, two compounds found in nutmeg.
- Nutmeg’s high magnesium content can help aid with achieving restful, restorative sleep.
- A 2016 study found nutmeg oil to be beneficial in alleviating chronic inflammatory pain.
Did you know nutmeg is also helpful in the quest to obtain a bright, fresh-faced look? Try mixing nutmeg with some organic honey to help heal acne or mix it with chickpea flour for a masque that helps remove stubborn blackheads.
A well-known digestive aid, ginger is a classic flavor in holiday standards like gingerbread cookies, muffins, spiced nuts, and teas.
Health benefits of ginger:
- Ginger is loaded with gingerol, the active compound that helps aid digestion while easing nausea.
- The compound gingerol is also touted for its anti-inflammatory effects, assisting in relieving inflammation and joint pain.
When using ginger as a wellness aid, always reach for fresh as it contains much more gingerol than dried. You can store fresh ginger in the refrigerator for up to one month and up to six months in the freezer. Add freshly grated ginger to your teas, desserts, and stews this holiday season to lower inflammation and ease pain.
5. Star Anise
Native to parts of China and Southeast Asia, star anise is derived from the pericarp of the fruit of the star anise tree, which reaches heights of up to 45 feet! Common in holiday desserts and teas, this beautifully shaped and perfumed spice is a perfect aroma to add to your diffuser to evoke a holiday atmosphere instantly.
Health benefits of star anise:
- The compound shikimic acid, present in star anise, mimics the effects of the flu drug
- Antifungal properties
- Anti-candida properties
- Antioxidant properties
Consider adding star anise to your favorite holiday dishes to limit your risk for candida during holiday overindulgence. It’s important to note that star anise is used to help pregnant and nursing mothers with milk production in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Avoid using star anise medicinally if you suffer from liver problems like cirrhosis.
Health-Wise Holiday Recipe Ideas
Enjoy the benefits of our five favorite healthy holiday spices with a new recipe that is destined to become a go-to for many years to come.
Vegan Gluten-Free Gingerbread Waffles
This recipe for easy vegan, gluten-free gingerbread waffles from Delightful Adventures is a crowd-pleasing breakfast (or fun dinner) idea for the holidays. We highly recommend trying waffles to satisfy that yearly craving if gingerbread houses and cookies aren’t in the cards due to your diet.
Star Anise Digestive Tea
If you experience digestive upset or a tickle in your throat amid all the festivities, this comforting star anise tea is sure to come to the rescue. Add some grated ginger for an extra boost!
- 2 whole star anise seed pods
- Honey or maple syrup
- Dried orange peel (optional)
Bring your water to a boil and transfer it into a teapot.
Add 2 whole star anise seed pods for each cup of water (add dried orange peels if you wish at this point)
Allow the tea to steep for up to 15 minutes.
Strain the tea into a festive mug and add sweetener to taste (optional).
Drink after a large holiday meal or if you feel a cough coming on.
If getting to bed is difficult for you during all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, try one of our favorite sleep tea recipes here.
Orange Spiced Carrots
The natural sweetness of carrots is the perfect backdrop to highlight the holiday spices clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. This side dish will have even the most ravenous carnivores reaching for seconds.
- 5 pounds of carrots
- 1 orange, juice and zest
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 5 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 inch piece of grated fresh ginger
- 2/3 cup vegetable stock or bone broth
- 1 tablespoon grass-fed butter, or healthy fat of your choice
- Salt and pepper
Peel and chop the carrots.
Add grated ginger, orange zest, and orange juice to a medium-sized pot on your stovetop.
Add your carrots, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper, and about 1/2 cup of vegetable stock (or bone broth).
Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.
Cook, occasionally stirring, for about 15- 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender and liquid has reduced.
Stir in the butter.
Mix well and serve!
Decaf Chai Latte
This latte lacks all the preservatives, additives, and refined sugar often found in coffee shop versions.Plus, you will receive tons of health benefits from cinnamon, ginger, and clove. Because this latte is decaf, you can enjoy it in the evening without it disrupting your sleep.
- 2 1/2 cups of unsweetened almond, macadamia, or cashew milk
- 2 bags of decaf black tea
- 1 scant tablespoon of cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 pinch of ground cloves
- pinch of sea or pink Himalayan salt
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, agave, or another sweetener of choice
- ice (if you would like an iced latte)
Heat your nut milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat until a slight simmer.
Remove from heat and place two decaf black tea bags into the heated milk. After steeping for 3-5 minutes, remove the teabags.
Next, add the cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, and your favorite sweetener. Stir until combined over medium-high heat. Taste and adjust for the sweetness level. Sweeteners can be avoided altogether if your diet requires.
Enjoy hot or refrigerate and serve over ice.
Share Your Healthy Holiday Recipes With Us
Remember, enjoying the familiar flavors of the holidays doesn’t have to derail your progress towards a pain-free life. Support your body in the vital work of healing this holiday season by trying some delicious recipes that will leave you feeling better than you started.
Do you have any favorite family recipes that won’t trigger inflammation? If so, we invite you to share them with our Pain Free For Life Support Group on Facebook. We can’t wait to see how you celebrate!