Not only will herbs and spices help flavor your dishes without weighing them down with calories, sugar, or fat, but if you pick the right ones they’ll add tremendous health benefits. To find out which ones we should be sprinkling on our dishes we turned to Amanda Foti, senior registered dietitian at Selvera Wellness, and asked her to highlight 10 of the most potent ones. Time to fill up those spice racks!
Any dietitian will probably tell you to spice up your life with some heat. Chili and cayenne peppers contain capsaicin the potent chemical that is responsible for many of the health benefits of these fiery spices. The weight loss benefits many media sources contribute to chili peppers are a tad exaggerated, but flavoring your food well may lead to increased satiety and less mindless munching. Plus, chili peppers contain vitamin A and immune-enhancing antioxidants, they have also been shown to help reduce blood pressure, so feel free to liberally sprinkle this one on any and everything.
The newest super spice to take over the media has got to be mustard-colored turmeric. Largely supported for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, liberal turmeric use has been known to relieve arthritis pain, help manage diabetes, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and more. Known to be a staple in Indian cuisine, turmeric is gaining popularity in the United States thanks to its health-boosting benefits. Consistent consumption of about 2 teaspoons per day can help prevent anemia and ward off cancer too, so try and sprinkle some on scrambled eggs, stir fry, and any roasted veggies.
From savory chili to a sweet slice of pie, cinnamon is one of the most versatile and widely used spices. It’s a good thing too because it contains fiber and has been shown to reduce blood sugar spikes after carbohydrate consumption. Plus, cinnamon has been shown to be good for your heart health and relieve indigestion. This time of year, try sprinkling some cinnamon on your morning bowl of oatmeal or add it to hot cocoa.
Although the smell might stick with you, eating raw garlic has been known to fight infections like the cold and flu. If you’re not into munching on cloves you can achieve similar anti-microbial results by eating cooked garlic in your favorite foods too. As little as half of a clove everyday provides selenium, flavonoids and antioxidants, which protect your blood vessels from inflammation and help reduce cholesterol levels.
Gingerol, the potent anti-inflammatory compound in ginger, helps block nerve signals that transmit pain sensations, settle an upset stomach and ease morning sickness. Try mixing some ground or fresh ginger into your morning bowl of oatmeal or adding it to a warming mug of tea after a large holiday meal.
Basil is a staple in most Mediterranean cooking, but did you know it has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well? Studies show that basil inhibits the growth of many bacteria that are developing resistance to antibiotics, so consider eating basil as a natural way to boost your body’s defenses. Plus, basil is a good source of magnesium, vitamin K, and vitamin C, which are important nutrients for long-term heart health.
Cilantro and Coriander Seed
The fresh herb and dried spice have both been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and fight infections in recent studies. Although cilantro tends to be a love it or hate it preference, your health may widely benefit from adding more of this herb into your next batch of guacamole or in your salad.
Rosemary has been known to stimulate circulation, aid digestion, and boost your immune health. Add this fresh herb to any roasted vegetables this season or infuse olive oil with rosemary and reap the great health benefits.
Daily dark chocolate consumption has long been discussed as having heart-health benefits through the antioxidant flavonoids in cocoa. Adding unsweetened cocoa powder to a smoothie, mug of hot cocoa, or even your chili may help keep your blood vessels patent, reduce the risk of a blood clot or stroke, and prevent the build up of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Oregano is another Italian-favored herb that has anti-microbial benefits to protect you from cold and flu season. It contains thymol and carvacol, which also contribute to the potent antioxidant content of this dried spice and fresh herb.