Adding culinary spices to your cuisine will enhance its flavour and improve its nutritional value. As they say, variety is the spice of life—especially when it comes to modifying the flavour, texture, scent, and—above all—taste of food. Spices, which are well-known for their nutritional qualities, have been researched for years in relation to health and medicine. Cooking with less salt and fat is possible when spices are used to flavour food. For many medical disorders, especially those involving excessive cholesterol, this is beneficial.
Certain spices may have a bigger effect on cholesterol than others, but no food or spice can cure excessive cholesterol. Continue reading to find out which particular spices dietitians advise against if you have high cholesterol and why.
What is High Cholesterol?
One of the early indicators of heart disease is high cholesterol. According to MedlinePlus, cholesterol is a waxy substance that the liver produces and is necessary for the production of hormones, vitamin D, and other substances that aid in digestion. Foods also include cholesterol. The likelihood of producing plaque is increased by elevated cholesterol. Atherosclerosis, which is brought on by plaque buildup in the arteries, raises the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, one of the main variables that can be changed by lifestyle choices like food and exercise is cholesterol levels.
Diet, stress management, regular exercise, and quitting smoking can all affect cholesterol. Diets high in fibre are, in fact, linked to heart health and a lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, spices may improve the body’s capacity to maintain appropriate cholesterol levels.
Citing a 2023 review in Nutrients, practicing dietitian nutritionist Renee Korczak, Ph.D., RDN, CSSD, LD, states that “Spices contain unique bioactive plant-based compounds that may work to reduce cholesterol levels, increase blood flow, and even help to support blood sugar levels.”
The #1 Spice to Reduce High Cholesterol
Our top spice for high cholesterol is cinnamon. partly because cinnamon has been demonstrated to help lower blood sugar in diabetics, and high cholesterol is frequently linked to high glucose levels.
A heart-healthy diet includes employing cinnamon, which has anti-inflammatory qualities as well, in place of fat, sugar, and salt.
For those who do not currently have high cholesterol, registered dietitian Jordan Hill, RDN, CSSC of Top Nutrition Coaching advises “incorporating spices like cinnamon, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger, and turmeric.” While acknowledging that not all spices are made equally, Korczak concurs and points out that these spices “are often described in the scientific literature to improve the taste of foods and beverages while providing some health benefits.”
Many varieties of cinnamon trees produce their bark, which is where cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is found. According to a 2019 comprehensive review in Clinical Nutrition, it has been investigated for its therapeutic properties, which range from lowering blood sugar and cholesterol to reducing inflammation. The substances found in cinnamon oil include cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid. According to a 2022 article in the Journal of Functional Foods, cinnamon bark also contains other bioactive substances called procyanidins and catechins, which may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The majority of studies on the effects of cinnamon on cholesterol have been conducted on individuals with metabolic syndrome and diabetes who have been supplemented with cinnamon. dosages vary from approximately 1500 mg to 6 grammes per day; normal recommendations are between 1500 mg and 4 grammes per day (¾–2 teaspoons), with higher dosages exceeding 1500 mg per day linked to better effects on HDL (good cholesterol).
A 2017 small-scale randomised clinical control trial that was published in Lipids in Health and Disease examined the effects of oral (3 grammes daily) versus 2.5 grammes of wheat flour supplementation on the metabolic syndrome of Asian Indian patients for 16 weeks. Researchers discovered that the supplement group’s reduction in blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), total cholesterol, triglycerides, and abdominal adiposity was noticeably greater than that of the other groups.
Although this is encouraging, there are many limitations with the study, including the population’s lack of generalizability and its brief length. The participants also received instruction on exercise and a balanced diet. Thus, more investigation is required to ascertain the dosage and duration of treatment that will provide a favourable outcome.
Researchers looked at 15 randomised clinical control trials in which participants received cinnamon powder or extract at doses ranging from 1 to 6 grammes based on prior diet, physical activity, and medication use. The results of the analyses were published in a 2022 meta-analysis and systematic review published in Frontiers in Physiology. 1,020 type 2 diabetes participants were enrolled in the 15 trials, and follow-up periods ranged from 40 days to up to 4 months. The group administered cinnamon had lower levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol than the placebo group did.
Should You Take Cinnamon Supplements?
Consult your doctor before beginning any new supplement regimen if you take medicine for high cholesterol or to control blood sugar. Because of varying study designs, populations examined, and spice amounts or forms, the research on the topic is not entirely consistent, Korczak says. Therefore, it is challenging to conclude that any particular spice completely lowers cholesterol levels. Consequently, rather than serving as a substitute for lifestyle changes, a diet high in fibre, frequent exercise, enough sleep, and weight loss (if necessary), cinnamon supplements should be used in addition to these strategies.
Cinnamon has some advantages when used in cooking. One can use 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder every day. Keep in mind that Cassia cinnamon contains a higher concentration of coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon, a substance that, in high quantities, can damage the liver. You might wish to go for Ceylon cinnamon if you intend to use it frequently.
Four Supplements You Must Avoid If Your Cholesterol Is High As said by a dietitian
How to Include Cinnamon in Your Diet
Including spices in your diet is pleasant, enjoyable, and good for your health. “When it comes to using spices, the possibilities are endless,” claims Hill. “Adding cinnamon in baking, to coffee grounds before brewing, in pancake batter, or sprinkled over Greek yoghurt,” is what she suggests doing.
Use cinnamon for flavouring chillis, stews, soups, and dry rubs for protein sources. You can also use cinnamon bark to produce a delectable tea. Make these Caribbean Bowls for a delicious and appetising start.
Other Ways to Lower Cholesterol
All things considered, a healthy diet is crucial for reducing cholesterol. Consuming a diverse range of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, increases the amount of fibre in the diet, which is essential for decreasing cholesterol.
According to Hill, “select proteins that are low in saturated fat.” “Select poultry, turkey, fish, and plant-based proteins such as tempeh and tofu.” She also suggests adding regular exercise and reducing alcohol, cheese, and red meat in order to maintain a healthy weight.” Finally, Korczak advises, “If you are looking to lower your cholesterol levels, check in with a qualified health care professional.”
Low Cholesterol Diet Plan for Beginners
The Bottom Line
Even while the research on cinnamon and cholesterol is encouraging, you cannot lower your cholesterol by merely including cinnamon in your diet without also altering your total eating habits. However, using spices in place of salt, sugar, and saturated fat is a fantastic method to enhance your health. Cinnamon can be an additional tool to help lower your cholesterol when added to your lifestyle adjustments.
For specific guidance if you’re curious about the advantages of taking a cinnamon supplement, get in touch with a registered dietician or other licenced healthcare provider. Any medication that may result in drug-nutrient interactions should be carefully examined.