5 Benefits of Vanilla You May Not Know

Vanilla is much more than just a food flavoring.


Vanilla flowers and bean pods.

(Valentyn Volkov / Shutterstock.com)

From ice cream to lattes, vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world. In fact, vanilla beans and extract are used in baking and cooking, as well as in perfumes and lotions because of its pleasing aroma, according to Healthline. But it is also one of the most costly spices in the world because it is very scarce and hard to produce.

Vanilla is extracted from the pods of orchids and is grown mainly in Madagascar. It is a very labor-intensive procedure as the plant flowers have to be hand-pollinated, explained WebMD. When the pods are ripe and dried, the beans can be used or made into natural vanilla extract.

Besides its delicious taste and pleasant aroma, vanilla also contains plant compounds that are good for your health. One of these is Vanillin, a beneficial plant compound that is found in vanilla beans and extract. These wellness benefits include antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, as well as protection against some cancers, according to Healthline.

Proven antioxidant properties 
Two of the phenolic plant compounds found in vanilla – vanillin and vanillic acid have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect your body against oxidative stress that can lead to many chronic diseases. A study published in the journal Metabolic Brain Disease found that both vanillin and vanillic acid protected brain cells against oxidative damage. Vanillin was found to offer more protection.

Helps reduce inflammation 
Although inflammation is part of your body's normal immune response, chronic inflammation can damage your body and lead to increased risk of chronic diseases like arthritis, explained Healthline. But eating a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatories, like vanilla, could reduce inflammation and increase overall health.

Helps brain health 
The antioxidant plant compounds found in vanilla could support brain health. That’s because these compounds have neuroprotective properties that can help protect your nervous system. In fact, a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that vanillic acid injections protected against inflammation of nerve cells and helped to reduce markers that are related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression 
The smell of vanilla is very soothing and calming, according to WebMD. It’s not surprising that the same compounds that give vanilla its aroma can also have the same effect when ingested. In fact, vanilla has been found to help people who suffer from anxiety and depression. Research published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, conducted on mice,  found that consuming 100 mg of vanillin per kilo of body weight had the antidepressant effects of prescription medication. That’s because higher levels of serotonin were observed in the test animals.

Helps you cut down on sugar
Vanilla has fewer calories and carbs than sugar so it can be used as a sugar replacement, suggested WebMD. This will help to reduce high glucose levels and could protect your heart health. Vanilla is safe for diabetics to use and could aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

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