Four Guilt-Free Holiday Spices

Photo by Jessica Payne

It's the swirling aroma of homemade apple cider flowing through the kitchen. Or the way a candy cane melts while it dangles on the edge of a Santa Claus cup filled with hot cocoa. All the little pleasures that come with the holidays will never get old, especially when it comes to festive flavors.

Whether you're feasting on mom's finest cuisine or whipping up an afternoon snack, the same spices seem to always make an appearance during this time of year: cinnamon, nutmeg, peppermint and ginger. Luckily for us, studies have shown that there are actually several health benefits to these spices, as long as they're not submerged in butter or whipped cream.

Cinnamon has been scientifically proven to help maintain blood sugar levels for people with and without Type 2 Diabetes. It also contains antioxidants that help keep arteries healthy and even prevent risk of heart disease. Adding a cinnamon stick to a cup of tea or cider is a great way to benefit from cinnamon without worrying about any extra calories, or try this spiced apple dish.

Peppermint flavoring has been heavily adopted by coffee shops everywhere. As yummy as that peppermint mocha may taste, a lot of commercial beverages and candies are made with artificial ingredients. Real peppermint leaves are actually packed with vitamins and can quickly relieve an upset stomach or headache. An all natural candy cane will provide some holiday cheer while still keeping you in good health. Or, try this homemade peppermint hot cocoa made with fresh mint leaves.

Ginger seems to be another necessity for the holidays, thanks to those irresistible little gingerbread men. Ground ginger is what usually appears in most holiday treats and tends to come with lots of extra calories. With the right recipe, ginger can actually calm an upset stomach or migraine. A cup of ginger tea will do the trick, or try these low fat gingerbread men to satisfy your holiday sweet tooth.

Nutmeg sweeps the spice cabinet with its broad list of health perks. While it helps regulate the digestive system and fights cavity bacteria, its ability to cause drowsiness also helps with insomnia. Most of the time nutmeg is paired with other spices. You can add a dash of nutmeg to any raw or cooked fruit, or sprinkle it over someĀ roasted chickpeas for a hearty snack.

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