The Science Behind Superfoods: Mangoes, Honey and Spices Could Bring Important Health Benefits

Superfoods like turmeric and honey have long been recognized for their ability to promote health and wellness. New studies being presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE take a closer look at the science behind the health benefits of superfoods. Here are four highlights:

Spicing up your diet could help lower blood pressure

A new study shows that adding herbs and spices to your diet may do more than improve the flavor. Researchers from Penn State University and Texas Tech University examined the cardiometabolic effects of incorporating mixed herbs and spices into an average American diet in adults at higher risk for cardiometabolic disease. The study included 71 participants who ate diets with 6.6, 3.3 and 0.5 grams per day of herbs/spices for four weeks. The three study diets did not show any differences in cholesterol or blood sugar levels. However, when the diet with the most herbs and spices — the equivalent of about 1.5 teaspoons — was eaten, 24-hour blood pressure levels were improved compared to the diet with the lowest amounts of herbs and spices.

Nanoparticles contribute to honey’s anti-inflammatory benefits

Although the medicinal qualities of honey have been known since ancient times, scientists are still uncovering the biochemistry responsible for the health benefits of this sweet substance. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have discovered that honey contains tiny nano-scale particles with a membrane-enclosed structure similar to exosomes found in the body. Experiments with these exosome-like nanoparticles showed that they can reduce inflammation in mice with experimentally induced liver injury and could potentially inhibit activation of a key inflammatory enzyme complex.

Snacking on mangoes could help lower chronic disease risk

Mangoes contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber and unique micronutrients. To better understand the health benefits of this tropical fruit, a study from San Diego State University examined 27 overweight and obese adults who consumed 100 calories of fresh mangoes or 100 calories of low-fat cookies daily for 12 weeks. Compared to those who ate the cookies, participants consuming mango showed improvements in certain chronic disease risk factors including fasting glucose levels and inflammation, although cholesterol levels and body weight were not affected. These results suggest that, compared to the low-fat cookies, daily mango consumption could improve certain risk factors associated with being overweight or obese.

Ginger, cinnamon and turmeric supplements linked with cholesterol benefits

Ginger, cinnamon and turmeric have been used in food preparation for centuries and implicated as health-promoting due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, but their effects on health and specific diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease need more research. A new study from Clemson University examined how these spices as well as the curcumin and curcuminoid pigments found in turmeric affect cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers analyzed 28 studies of randomized controlled trials that included a total of 1049 control patients and 1035 patients who received the spice supplements in capsule form for one to three months. They found that, in general, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, curcumin and curcuminoids were associated with an improved lipid profile for people with type 2 diabetes. Considerations included spice dose, species, duration of consumption and population characteristics. Although the available studies are limited and more studies are needed, the findings suggest that these spices may offer a potential benefit for people with type 2 diabetes and unhealthy high cholesterol levels.

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