Herbs and spices can make all the difference between a dull meal and a delicious one. Many bland foods can be completely transformed with some smart spices and herbs. However, it’s not only your taste buds that will benefit from herbs and spices, your health will too.
Herbs and spices have long been used in both Indian and Chinese medicine and many modern drugs come from herbs and spices.
While it is unwise to try and self-medicate using herbs or spices, there is no reason not to use them in an effort to make your meals healthier and taste better.
There are literally hundred if not thousands of herbs to choose from – some of which are rare and expensive such as saffron. To help you make informed choices, here are TEN of the healthiest herbs and spices, the list taking into account availability, cost, and benefit. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below.
Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains iron, calcium and manganese and is loaded with antioxidants and health benefits. Studies suggest that cinnamon may help control blood glucose and blood pressure in people with Type 2 diabetes. Enjoy cinnamon on oatmeal or add a little in your next smoothie to start reaping its benefits. Sprinkle it on toast, yogurt or cereal, and mix it into muffin recipes. Beyond breakfast time, try sprinkling cinnamon on veggies such as roasted carrots or sweet potatoes.
Sweet fennel bulbs are a good source of vitamin C which is important for a healthy immune system. Fresh fennel is great in salads, soups and stews. Dried fennel seeds, the part of the plant you’ll find in your spice cupboard, are traditionally used in fish dishes, particularly those made with oily fish, because the seeds enhance the flavor and aid digestion of fats. The leaves of the fennel plant are tasty, too. You can sprinkle fresh chopped leaves on yogurt, tofu or steamed vegetables.
3. Dried Red Pepper
The compound capsaicin puts the heat in chilies. It may lower the risk of skin and colon cancers; studies show it also helps people eat fewer calories. Capsaicin is also a known pain-killer and may also boost your metabolism leading to faster/easier weight loss. Sprinkle on any meal that deserves a little heat!
This bright orange-yellow spice contains the antioxidant curcumin. As well as being an excellent disarmer of free radicals, curcumin has been shown to suppress the gene implicated in the development and progression of breast cancer by improving the efficacy of chemotherapy medications and reducing drug resistance. Turmeric can be added to any vegetable side dish for a little curry-like flavor.
Ginger contains many compounds, including gingerol, thought to provide its main health benefits. Ginger has been used for the treatment of colds, gastrointestinal problems and motion sickness. Animal studies have also shown that ginger may protect tissues and organs from oxidative damage and prevent cancer growth. Ginger is a tasty addition to tea, smoothies, cereals and yogurt. Create a gingerbread-flavored breakfast treat by topping toasted bread with a bit of butter and honey and a sprinkle of ground, dried ginger. Adding freshly grated ginger to sautéed vegetables, salad dressings and marinades adds an instant Asian twist to your dish.
Peppermint is a great source of vitamin C and A and can help soothe indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. Here’s how you can add it to your diet: Puree 2 tablespoons fresh mint with 1/2 cup yogurt or ricotta cheese. Serve with berries.
The word “sage” originates from the Latin “salvus,” or “healthy.” The herb was traditionally used to maintain healthy teeth and gums and was boiled as a drink to soothe arthritis. Recent studies have suggested that sage may improve mood, mental performance, memory, and attention. The essential oil extracted from sage can also be used as an eco-friendly disinfectant.
A 2008 study found that rosemary, a member of the mint family and a powerful antioxidant, might help inhibit the formation of cancer-causing compounds on grilled meat. The report’s researcher suggested using the extract because rosemary-flavored burgers aren’t palatable to most people. Or you could just add them to the marinade instead!
Garlic destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. Studies suggest that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits. Let garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes after chopping and before cooking so the active form of the protective phytochemicals develops. Sauté fresh garlic over low heat and mix with pasta, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese.
Parsley is packed with more vitamin C than an orange. Because of its high antioxidant content, this leafy green may help the immune system and reduce the risk of cancer. So don’t label parsley as just another garnish: Incorporate the herb in your diet by adding it to sauces such as chimichurri and pesto.
Herbs and spices – we all have them in our kitchen cabinets buy maybe some of them should be in the medicine cabinet too! Add some herbs and spices to your meals to pump up the teste and the healthfulness of your meals at the same time!