Health & Body

How Your Spice Cabinet Can Get You Your Best Dance Bod

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Turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, and garlic: They're spice cabinet staples that double as performance-boosters. Dance Spirit turned to Emily Cook Harrison, a registered dietitian at Nutrition for Great Performances in Atlanta, GA, for a breakdown of their benefits, and the most effective ways to incorporate them into your diet.


Turmeric

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"Turmeric is most commonly known for helping inflammation," says Harrison. "If you eat it regularly, it'll decrease joint pain and reduce general inflammation over time." However, don't use it as a substitute for over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen—its benefits are more long-term than immediate.

How to Eat It

Harrison emphasizes that consistency is key: "In order to feel its benefits, make sure turmeric is a part of your daily diet." Sprinkling a pinch of turmeric over your salad won't cause a measurable decrease of inflammation (though it can't hurt!), but mixing it into beverages will. Try beginning your day with a cup of turmeric tea, and ending it with a glass of "golden milk"—a blend of 2 cups of warm coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of turmeric spice, and a 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon.


Cayenne Pepper

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Cayenne pepper is a powerful spice with an abundance of benefits. It promotes a healthy digestive tract and is anti-inflammatory. But its secret ingredient? "A substance called capsaicin, which can alleviate joint pain," Harrison explains.

How to Eat It

Cayenne pepper extracts can be found in juices, while a teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper can be mixed with salad dressing. If you enjoy spicy food, you can also incorporate chopped raw cayenne peppers into your omelets and salads.


Ginger

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If cayenne pepper isn't doing it for your GI tract, you might want to try ginger. "Ginger is anti-inflammatory and extremely effective for upset stomachs," Harrison says. It combats everything from nausea to digestive issues. Keep in mind that, like turmeric, you'll need to eat a substantial amount of ginger in order for it to work (but a small amount of ginger, like a cup of ginger tea, can aid digestion).

How to Eat It

A cup of ginger root tea or a bowl of carrot-ginger soup are great options. A 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger can be combined with cayenne pepper and turmeric for a super-blend of spices, perfect for cooking. Two tablespoons of sliced raw ginger also make a great addition to a stir-fry.


Garlic

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When it comes to boosting your immune system, nothing beats garlic. "Garlic isn't just anti-inflammatory," Harrison says. It's also shown to reduce cold symptoms.

How to Eat It

Chances are, there's a bulb of garlic already in your kitchen cabinet. Chop up two or three cloves to add to whatever you're cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Spice Up You Life."

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