The Spice of life

dig in .

Spice is nice
3 SEP 1998 Natural food flavorings. They seem, well, so optional. Why mess up a burger with a thick slab of raw onion? Or even ridiculous: Why brave the tongue-roasting horrors of a habanero pepper or destroy your breath with raw garlic?

But were spices really just a culinary option during the thousands of years of human history that preceded the invention of refrigeration? Perhaps not. Spices, it turns out, have a wide range of medicinal properties.

Fork in hand, The Why Files is going exploring.

If your idea of suicide is a healthy splash of Tabasco sauce, or the little green chile peppers beloved by the Thais, we've found some highly scientific reasons to eat your spices. Many spices, like a garlic compound that interferes with intestinal parasites, inhibit food-borne germs. By contrast, an onion extract may slow blood clotting, the cause of heart attack and stroke. And marinades, the sauces used to prepare meat for cooking, may prevent the formation of cancer-causing chemicals.

Have we whetted your appetite for more on the health effects of natural food flavorings?

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The Why Files Staff includes: Terry Devitt, editor; Darrell Schulte, webmaster; David Tenenbaum, feature writer; Susan Trebach, team leader