Forget the mints your associate with gum or mouthwash. There are actually hundreds of plants in the mint family that you may have never realized were technically classified as mints, including basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, sage, and lemon balm. When used in teas, these herbs can soothe an upset stomach, but emerging research suggests that their individual compounds can prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps keep your memory sharp.
Whether hot and spicy or sweet and crunchy, there are enough peppers out there to suit anyone's taste, and they're all equally healthy for you. Spicy chile peppers have high levels of capsaicin, which interferes with your mind's pain receptors, and therefore act as natural painkillers. Capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, has also been found to aid in weight loss by keeping your metabolism in check. Sweet peppers have a similar compound called dihydrocapsiate that comes without the spicy kick of capsaicin but with the same effects on pain and weight loss. They also contain loads of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Toss a few spicy peppers into your next batch of tacos or Asian stir-fry; bell peppers retain most of their vitamins when eaten raw.
Pomegranates have been used for centuries in the Middle East, Iran, and India as a folk remedy, Duke writes, and for good reason. They're a good source of potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants that ward off cancer. They could also help fight Alzheimer's disease. Loma Linda University researchers discovered that mice that consumed pomegranate juice experienced 50 percent less brain degeneration than animals that drank sugar-water. A final benefit? Pace University researchers found that pomegranate juice can kill the S. mutans bacteria, one of the main causes of cavities. Pomegranate juice is a good way to get the most out of these sometimes-messy fruits, as manufacturers use the entire fruit, as opposed to just the edible seeds.
A relative of ginger, turmeric is the spice that gives curries their vivid golden hue and yellow mustard its bright color. For thousands of years, people in India have considered turmeric a healing herb. Studies show that it protects the stomach, helping to prevent ulcers, and it aids in the digestion of fats. The spice may also fight Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have found that elderly villagers in India appear to have the world's lowest rate of the disease, possibly because of the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin in turmeric. Incorporate turmeric onto your chicken, turkey, rice, or vegetables to get used to the different taste. Duke suggests sprinkling it on cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale.
Few foods are better for your brain than walnuts. They're a great source of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that curbs your appetite, as well as vitamin E, magnesium, folate, protein, and fiber. Walnuts boast more heart-healthy omega-3 fats than salmon, making them a good antidote to seasonal depression. This wonder nut is also packed with anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Many of the compounds in walnuts, such as vitamin B5 and folic acid, can be destroyed by heat, so it's best to eat them raw. If you find them too bitter to eat whole, use them in place of pine nuts in your pesto or grind them up and sprinkle them over cooked vegetables.
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