5 spices that can boost your brain health

Along with adding flavour and dimension to your meals, spices have a superpower: they’re packed with antioxidants that can help improve brain function, decrease inflammation, and rev up your metabolism.

How many times a week do you go to your spice rack? Better yet, do you even have any spices other than salt and pepper?

We get it. Understanding and using the right spices can be overwhelming. But if you want to protect yourself from cognitive decline, it’s a good idea to get better acquainted with them because they pack a lot of power.

As dietitian and Be Fit Food CEO Kate Save tells Body+Soul, “When spices are incorporated into a balanced diet, they may help to improve brain function and overall health.”

The key is to work spices into your food both frequently and liberally.

“For the most benefit, spices should be used generously, not just as a garnish,” explains dietitian Melissa Meier.

“You can squeeze them into almost any dish, so get creative with them.”


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Your go-to spice for relieving indigestion and nausea is also a champ at upping your brain health.

“It’s rich in hundreds of phytochemicals, including gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin and salicylates, and it acts protectively against stress and decline in brain function,” explains Save.

Cook with it: Make fresh ginger tea or add the spice to your stir-fries, smoothies, juices, and marinades.


Traditionally used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, cardamom is an antioxidant powerhouse that can keep your grey matter in good nick.

“Cardamom is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can protect cells from damage and protect against inflammation,” Save tells Body+Soul.

“It’s also known to protect against oxidative stress, which is known to lead to forms of dementia.”

Cook with it: Use cardamom to brew your own chai tea and add it to baked goods, curries and stews.


“Turmeric contains curcumin, the antioxidant responsible for its bright yellow colour, and this compound has been linked to protection against Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Meier.

The spice is also known to fight inflammation, which may have positive effects on everything from arthritis and digestion to cancer prevention. And some studies show it is also an effective treatment for pain relief.

Cook with it: Add turmeric to curries, egg dishes, rice dishes, smoothies and use it as a base for your lattes.


Just like turmeric, cinnamon is packed with powerful antioxidants, and it’s also rich in beta-carotene and B vitamins, which have been linked to improved brain health.

“Cinnamon is also known to have beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” notes Save.

“It inhibits a build-up of protein in the brain that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and in one study, cinnamon was shown to protect neurons from Parkinson’s disease.”

Cook with it: Stir cinnamon through your oats, smoothies, cereal and baking mixes.


Containing more antioxidant power than potent herbs like oregano, cloves are a surprising source of brain-boosting nutrients.

“Cloves contain manganese, which is an essential mineral for maintaining brain function,” explains Save. “Cloves also contain a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to act as a natural antioxidant in the body.” In fact, according to one study, eugenol was able to stop oxidative damage five times more effectively than the powerful antioxidant vitamin E.

Cook with it: Warm up your curries, desserts, chutneys and pork dishes by adding in some cloves.

The heat is on

Spicy foods pack more than just a flavourful punch – they’re also beneficial to your overall wellbeing. Here’s how:

  • They protect your heart. Capsaicinoids – like those found in chillies – have been shown to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, blood pressure and cholesterol, which may help lower your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • They can increase your lifespan. Research published in the British Medical Journal found that people who eat spicy foods more than three times a week lower their risk of early death by 14 percent.
  • They rev up your metabolism. Studies show that capsaicin has a thermogenic effect, which may kickstart your metabolism and decrease your appetite.

Note: If you suffer from heartburn or indigestion, go easy on the spices.