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Fall and winter in North Carolina are a perfect time to get cozy by the fire with warm, seasonal beverages, baked goods and dishes made with some classic, flavorful spices. The good news is that many of these popular ‘cold weather’ spices that can fill your home with scents of the season also offer numerous heart healthy benefits.

How Our Favorite Fall & Winter Spices Promote Better Health


Derived from the bark of the cinnamon tree, cinnamon promotes blood sugar control, helps prevent the harmful clumping of blood platelets, strengthens the cardiovascular system, contributes to lower cholesterol, and helps block the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive system. It also contains phytochemicals, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. Less inflammation can help decrease the risk for heart disease, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, arthritis and many more serious health conditions.


Giving cloves their brown color, beta-carotene is abundant in this spice. The body converts betacarotene into vitamin A, which promotes better vision and eye health, and strengthens the immune system. Cloves are also rich in antioxidants and are a vital source for manganese, a mineral that regulates blood sugar levels, supports better brain function and helps build stronger bones. Cloves are known for their anti-inflammatory properties as well.


For more than 2,500 years, ginger continues to be used for medicinal purposes in China. Ginger comes from a root, and one of its natural components, gingerol, benefits gastrointestinal motility, or the emptying of the stomach to relieve nausea. Ginger also helps open up the body’s circulation, which leads to less pain, less cramping, better digestion and enhanced exercise performance. Meanwhile, ginger has a hand in disrupting the growth of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli in the colon.


Nutty and slightly sweet, nutmeg is best used in small amounts; a little bit goes a long way. Larger quantities of nutmeg can cause some symptoms of toxicity, however, with the right measurements (about 1/8 of a teaspoon), nutmeg can help with achy joints and muscle pain, promote better liver and kidney function, and create a calming effect over the body
by reducing fatigue and stress.


Derived from the root of the curcuma longa plant, turmeric can credit its health benefits to its main active component, curcumin. Curcumin is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is also used as a dietary supplement to help prevent or improve conditions such as arthritis, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, allergies, liver disease and depression. Not only that, research has shown that turmeric may contribute to reduced risk of memory loss and dementia.

Did You Know?

During the cooking or baking process, heat can affect a spice’s nutrient make-up and health benefits. While the nutrient levels of clove and cinnamon remain constant during exposure to high temperatures, turmeric, nutmeg and ginger can actually become more beneficial to good health when heated.

Clever Ways to Spice It Up

Ramp up the flavor of your favorite fall and winter snacks, drinks and meals, and achieve delicious and healthy results, by using these popular spices in unexpected ways.

“Using spices is a great way to incorporate flavor into your recipes without adding calories or fat – and they can often be used in lieu of salt or sugar, which can make it easier to keep your dishes heart-healthy,” explains Monika Kraus, RD, WakeMed registered dietitian.

  • Instead of sprinkling sugar, add a few dashes of cinnamon to your oatmeal, coffee, baked sweet potato or apple slices. Cinnamon can also be added to peanut butter toast, a bowl of chili, or yogurt.
  • Nutmeg is an essential ingredient when making pumpkin or apple pie. It can also be used to flavor seasonal roasted vegetables.
  • Turmeric is the perfect addition to your fall or winter soup. You can even blend it into your scrambled egg mixture or sprinkle on your tacos.
  • Ginger can be purchased in pickled, dried or powdered form. Pickled ginger pairs perfectly with sushi, while the spice in powdered form is great in soup. Thinly sliced fresh ginger can be used to make a relaxing cup of warm ginger tea.
  • Add ground cloves to chai tea, pumpkin smoothies, vanilla pudding or a pumpkin muffin mix
    for extra flavor.

This blog is adapted from an article recently shared in the fall issue of Heart to Heart magazine. Subscribe to receive this free WakeMed publication.

WakeMed Health & Hospitals