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Herbs and spices: new weapons against cancer

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The next time you're preparing dinner, try using a variety of spices to flavour the meal - they just might save your life. A growing body of research indicates that many spices can help prevent cancer.

The next time you’re preparing dinner, try using a variety of spices to flavour the meal—they just might save your life. A growing body of research indicates that many spices can help prevent cancer. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric, is a new darling among anticancer researchers. The bright yellow Indian spice has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties believed to be particularly useful in fighting colon and breast cancer. Saffron, a fragrant yellow herb used in rice dishes, may be able to slow the growth of tumour cells and decrease damaging effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients. Rosemary is a COX-2 inhibitor, meaning it can block an enzyme that makes cancer cells grow stronger. Ginger contains the active ingredient [6]-gingerol, which has proven to be effective in slowing the growth of human colorectal cancer cells. Of all culinary herbs, oregano, that old favourite for pizzas and pasta sauces, ranks highest for antioxidant content. Other antioxidant-containing spices and herbs include dill, thyme, garlic, and peppermint.

Decaf drinks: safe or chemical-ridden carcinogens?
North America’s new obsession with coffee and tea has given us a continent-sized case of the jitters. The desire for the comfort of a warm drink without the shakes has led to the belief that decaffeinated products are healthier. But is this really true? The most widely used process of decaffeination uses ethylene chloride to chemically extract caffeine from unroasted coffee beans and fresh tea leaves.

According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ethylene chloride is a suspected human carcinogen that can also cause cumulative liver and kidney damage. Extraction using ethyl acetate is also common and is often misleadingly referred to as “natural decaffeination” because although ethyl acetate is a chemical solvent, it is found naturally in some plants. In these chemical processes, beneficial flavonoids and antioxidants in the tea and coffee are extracted along with the caffeine.

If you can’t get by without your daily mug, try organic tea or coffee grown without pesticides. If you want decaf, make sure you go with an organic brand that uses carbon dioxide processing, which is the healthiest method of decaffeination. Leaves or beans are lightly soaked in water and then rinsed with CO2. When the CO2 dissipates, the caffeine goes too, but most of the antioxidants and flavonoids remain. No chemicals are used.

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