Holiday Spices That Help Your Health

By Sheila Warren, RN, GMC Women’s Health navigator

The holidays are coming and so are some of my favorite flavors. The holiday spices, like other spices, are created from plants, and have unexpected health benefits. Just remember to use them in healthier food choices instead of high-fat treats!


Cinnamon sticks are the dried inner bark of the cinnamon tree, and is one of the oldest known spices. It’s also available as a ground powder. Try adding a dash to your oatmeal, coffee or tea, for a boost of nutrients and flavor. Health benefits include: 
  • May help control blood sugar, according to a recent study
  • Studies of the oils in cinnamon show it’s anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory
  • Cinnamon’s scent improves focus


Cloves are the unopened flower buds from an evergreen clove tree. When picked, they are pink and turn brown with drying. In addition to adding ground cloves to holiday sweets, they add a rich note to bean dishes including soup and chili. Health benefits include:
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Eugenol in cloves acts as an anti-inflammatory (at least in animal studies)


Peppermint flavoring comes from the leaves of peppermint plants. In summer, sprigs of fresh mint are often available at farmers’ markets. These can be steeped in tea. Year-round, tea made of dried peppermint leaves is readily available. Health benefits include:
  • Rosmarinic acid in peppermint can help with decongestion
  • May relieve headache symptoms
  • Helps ease indigestion and upset stomach


While chocolate candy doesn’t offer many health benefits, Powdered, unsweetened cocoa is full of nutrition, since cocoa is made from the dried and fermented seed of the cacao plant. For uses that don’t involve a lot of sugar, sprinkle cocoa on fruit, or add it to dishes like chili or beef stew. Health benefits include:
  • A good source of flavonoids (antioxidants)
  • May help regulate blood sugar
  • May lower blood pressure

If using these spices is new to you or you have specific dietary constraints, ask your physician before you indulge. Bon appétit!

Free Wellness Consultation

As Gwinnett medical Center’s women’s health navigator, Sheila Warren, RN, is available for a free wellness consultation. She can answer your health and wellness questions – about labor and lactation support, post-childbearing years, menopause and post-menopause. She can even assist with health-related questions for the children and men in your life. To schedule your free wellness consultation, call 678-312-4740.


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