By Laura Schocker AOL Healthy Living
'Tis the season for holiday baking -- and while you already know to consume in moderation (too much butter and sugar is only a recipe for January regret), there may actually be some health benefits tucked inside your favorite recipes. Look no further than the spice rack.
Loading up on these seasonal flavors not only makes the whole house smell great, but it can also help to satisfy sweet cravings, add flavor without additional salt or fat, and provide an extra punch of antioxidants, says HuffPost blogger Cheryl Forberg, RD, the nutritionist on "The Biggest Loser."
A staple in holiday cookie recipes -- and sprinkled atop seasonal drinks -- cinnamon has several health benefits. Studies have linked consumption of this spice to lower blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, says registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, Toby Smithson, founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com -- it may also decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Turns out a dose of ginger tea for an upset stomach isn't an old wives' tail -- the spice has been shown to calm nausea and help with motion sickness, Smithson says (helpful after holiday travel!). It may also help to ease migraine headaches and possibly even prevent ovarian cancer.
In addition, ginger may relieve pain and swelling from arthritis, says Katherine Brooking, RD, co-founder of AppForHealth.com. But beware that it can hinder blood clotting, meaning you should speak to your doctor if you're taking a blood thinner or aspirin, or if you're about to have surgery.
Nutmeg can make the whole house smell festive -- and it may have other sweet perks, as well. Glamour reported in 2010 that this spice can regulate your GI tract and promote sleep. It also has anti-inflammatory properties -- Glamour suggests mixing it with milk to apply to a facial blemish or rubbing a little of the oil form onto your gums for toothaches.
Just a half-teaspoon of cloves, Smithson says, has higher antioxidant content than an entire half-cup of blueberries or cranberries. Cloves contain an active component called eugenol, Brooking explains, which some research suggests operates as an anti-inflammatory.
As if you needed one more reason to nosh on a candy cane, Smithson says peppermint can quell an upset stomach, alleviate headaches and sooth symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome -- it may also have cancer prevention properties. But be careful if you're prone to heartburn, as peppermint can make it worse.