Health benefits with spices?
In addition to making a menu more interesting, spices are known to provide some proven health benefits especially in regards to preventing disease and improving daily function. Specific herbs and spices are anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-clotting (thereby preventing stroke and coronary artery disease), anti-bacterial and anti-viral. You can do everything from treat the symptoms of a cold virus to help treat high blood pressure to help prevent cancer. You certainly won’t find fresh herbs or spices in any processed foods!
Spices add Variety
So I’ve listed a bunch of the herbs and spices I use in my own cooking to get more flavor punch as well as add some variety to the mix. As with anything we eat, do so in moderation! Don’t go crazy with anything super-spicy or something your system may not be familiar with.
For example, one of the known benefits of many spices is improved gastrointestinal health, but not if you eat too much (the very opposite can then occur)! And it’s really important that you never replace the treatment advice from a doctor with self-prescribed treatment from your spice cabinet. All of these items provide benefits, but they certainly don’t provide cures.
Let’s be honest for second. If you are eating 5-6 times a day, that is anywhere from 150-180 ‘meals’ per month. Hard to find 100 ‘different’ things to eat, so use spices to mix it up! Using spices, there are tons of ways to make your chicken, fish, etc. taste different, and for a lot of people that helps remove the “it’s boring to eat healthy” excuse.
Lemon Juice & Lime Juice:
Add lemon or lime juice to your water, squeeze it on your fish, use it as your salad dressing, incorporate it into a marinade, the options go on and on! Lemon juice is my personal #1 pick when it comes to an added guilt-free flavor. Lemon and lime are one of the best sources of Vitamin C, boosting your immune system, giving your skin a nutritional boost and healthy glow, and helping to fight off blackheads and wrinkles.
They are both detoxifying, so they help with bad breath, improve gum health in the mouth, and help resolve a host of digestive issues. Lemon and lime juice have also been linked to improved weight loss, lowered blood pressure, and quicker resolution of both respiratory tract and urinary tract infections. Go with some additional lemon and/or lime on a daily basis for sure!
This is one of my favorite spices. Cinnamon has been said to help the body manage blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and keep arteries clean. It’s absolutely delicious with so many foods and a naturally calorie-free option! Try it in coffee, oatmeal, on toast, and even on some root vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes.
I love a good spicy meal – it makes me pay close attention to how much I’m eating! Chili Peppers have an ingredient called capsacin, which is known to relieve pain (such as chronic headaches), increase heart health, stop ulcers and fight prostate cancer. You should know that the hotter the pepper (such as Habanero and Scotch bonnet peppers), the higher the capsacin content, but you have to have quite a healthy GI system to digest the really hot ones without negative side effects.
The milder options are jalapenos, cherry peppers and Spanish pimentos. I suggest you consult an online cooking site or a good cookbook to learn how to incorporate these peppers into your food, as there are definitely some safe handling and cooking procedures required. Peppers have been shown to increase endorphin production (which helps prevent depression), increase metabolic rate, and lower blood pressure. An easy way to add a small dash of chili pepper spice to your diet is to use some Tobasco Sauce. Tobasco is primarily Cayenne Pepper and Tumeric. The only thing to keep an eye on is the extra sodium that comes with it. Frankly, I put it anything that needs an extra kick!
Having already mentioned this as a component of Tobasco Sauce, you might also be able to smell the Tumeric as soon as you go into a local Indian restaurant. A relative of ginger, turmeric has been shown to reduce arthritic inflammation, and is said to reduce the risk of some cancers. Tumeric is best absorbed with pepper (see above), and you’ll find the two spices used to flavor curries and a lot of ethnic foods.
Another favorite! Garlic is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, and it’s known to prevent blood clots. Even the AmericanHeart Association has acknowledged the potential health benefits of consuming garlic, including the potential to decrease blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol. Some people specifically interested in these potential health benefits take it in pill form.
I want YOU to use it in cooking to make your food taste more interesting, and then I want you to take pride in doing something healthy for your body at the same time. Garlic adds definitive flavor to your foods when cooked, but not everyone likes that flavor, and not everyone’s system agrees with it, so use sparingly at first.
Thyme is an herb that contains natural oils that are both anti-bacterial and antiseptic. Thyme tastes amazing when added to soups and stews, and it’s a great alternative to a salt rub when roasting lean cuts of meat. Thyme can be purchased in most stores, but it’s also incredibly easy to grow at home and makes for a fun herb box project!
The Italians certainly know what they are doing in adding the herb oregano to their traditional dishes! Not only does it taste great, oregano contains thymol and carvacol, which are antibacterial agents that fight infection. Even better, oregano contains four times more healthy antioxidants than blueberries!
I absolutely love the smell of the herb rosemary, and I love that it contains antioxidants. And the antioxidants in rosemary have been linked with a decreased incidence and lowered risk of developing many cancers. Rosemary is another great herb for meat and fish rubs. This is one to add to your herb box project!
Love Mexican food? Well I suggest incorporating cilantro into some healthier options and you’ll get a similar taste. I love adding fresh cilantro to my homemade salsa. In addition to tasting great, cilantro is used in the treatment of heavy metal toxicity due to its ability to bind with certain toxins in the body. This makes it a “chelating agent”, and by binding with those toxins, it makes them unable to cause any damage.
Parsley prevents arteriole plaque build-up, has been shown to slow the progression of deafness in some cases, and aids in the passing of kidney stones. Parsley is a very mild tasting herb, so adding it to salads, soups, or to an herbal rub for meats and vegetables is an easy option. Many people use parsley to clean the palate, so feel free to eat it raw right off your plate!
I think I’ve given you some terrific options that will keep your palate nice and busy without adding anything back on to that shrinking waistline. Enjoy and as always, remember that Things Don’t Just Happen, You Make Them Happen!