Healing Powers of Spices

The typical American diet is deficient in spices. Is yours?

If you aren’t including ample amounts of a variety of herbs and spices into your cooking, you are missing out on Nature’s gift to us. March is National Nutrition Month, and this year the theme is Savor The Flavor of Eating Right. If you believe that eating right means bland and boring food, read on and reach out. To celebrate Registered Dietitian Day next week, we will be offering discounts on new services. See below.

Herbs and spices are Nature’s gift because culinary herbs and spices impart diverse flavors to foods and beverages and provide tremendous health benefits. Herbs and spices contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that you can’t get in other foods.

The standard America diet is woefully lacking herbs and spices. These flavorful compounds have immense healing power and should be emphasized as an important food group that prevents disease. The examples of health benefits from culinary herbs and spices are numerous. Cinnamon lowers blood glucose. Turmeric lowers inflammation to such a great degree that it works as well as some pain medications. Ginger and garlic have well-documented anti-inflammatory properties and play roles in digestive health. Mint also has a calming affect on the gut and helps to reduce gastrointestinal spasms. Rosemary is a source of antioxidants that is being studied for liver health. Cilantro acts as an anti-microbial that may play a role in gut microbiome balance. The fiery cayenne pepper works as an analgesic and has cardiovascular health benefits. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The more culinary herbs and spices are researched there is a greater realization that this food group plays an important role in physiological function.

Rather than being an optional culinary add-on, herbs and spices should be top priority in a healthy whole foods diet. Here are a few tips for the most common healing herbs and spices.

Cayenne is very spicy; use sparingly.

  • Mix a pinch of cayenne into plain Greek yogurt for a zesty dip.
  • Add a pinch of cayenne and cinnamon to hot chocolate.
  • Add a pinch of cayenne to a greens smoothie.
  • Add a pinch of cayenne to melted chocolate and dip orange slices into chocolate.
  • Cayenne goes well with a variety of herbs and spices to give a bit of fiery spice.

Cilantro should be added at the end of cooking.

  • Sprinkle cilantro on top of a coconut milk curry.
  • Mix cilantro into rice cooked with coconut milk and lime zest.
  • Dice avocado and cucumbers; mix in cilantro and lime juice.
  • Grill corn, remove corn from cob and mix with cilantro, lime, avocado and tomatoes.
  • Combine cilantro with basil, chili, chives, dill, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, mint or parsley.

Cinnamon is a sweet-tasting spice that loses flavor quickly, so purchase small amounts and use it quickly.

  • Use cinnamon in hot breakfast cereals and baked goods. When included in these foods reduce the amount of added sugar used.
  • Add a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon to ground coffee for drip coffee.
  • Toss carrots with olive oil and cinnamon, and then roast in the oven.
  • Use cinnamon in lamb stew.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon on slices of eggplant; toss in olive oil and grill.
  • Combine cinnamon with cardamom, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, mace, nutmeg or turmeric.

Coriander has a mild flavor and can be used liberally in cooking.

  • Sprinkle coriander over sliced apples, plums and pears. Toss in coconut oil and bake fruit until softened.
  • Simmer fruit compotes with coriander.
  • Sprinkle coriander on baked fish.
  • Toss quartered red potatoes with coriander and olive oil. Roast in the oven.
  • Combine coriander with allspice, chili, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, mace or nutmeg.

Fennel is traditionally used as a digestive aid.

  • Place fish over fennel sprigs and lemon slices and bake.
  • Sprinkle fennel seeds over sliced beets and cucumber; toss with olive oil.
  • Stew fennel seeds with tomatoes and garlic. Use this as a condiment for eggs.
  • Combine fennel with chervil, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, lemon balm, mint, parsley or thyme.

Garlic is aromatic and versatile. It was one of the earliest herbs to be cultivated.

  • Mix minced garlic into mayonnaise for a zesty spread.
  • Stir-fry vegetables with slices of garlic.
  • Garlic can enhance the flavor of any savory dish and can be combined with any herb or spice.

Ginger can be used interchangeably as the fresh root or dried powder. The root has a thin peel that can be peeled off with a vegetable peeler. Dried ginger has a strong and distinctive flavor.

  • Sprinkle ginger over a baked sweet potato.
  • Cook ginger into quinoa.
  • Toss pineapple slices with ginger and melted coconut oil. Grill the pineapple.
  • Boil ginger with water and a tiny bit of honey for ginger tea.
  • Stir ginger into oatmeal with banana slices.
  • Make pear compote with ginger.
  • Combine ginger with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, dried fruit, honey, nutmeg, nuts, paprika, pepper or saffron.

Mint

  • Sauté peas and carrots with fresh mint.
  • Bake fish in foil pouches with mint leaves and lemon slices.
  • Marinate lamb with mint, olive oil and sumac.
  • Add fresh mint leaves to tomato and cucumber salad.
  • Add dried mint to meatballs, especially if using lamb.
  • Mix with plain yogurt, minced garlic and diced cucumber.
  • Combine mint with basil, cardamom, cloves, cumin, dill, fenugreek, ginger, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sumac and thyme.

Rosemary

  • Place a sprig of fresh rosemary in a bottle of olive oil for rosemary infused oil.
  • Add a sprig to lemonade or tea.
  • Roast wedges of green cabbage with olive oil and rosemary.
  • Scramble a pinch of dried rosemary into eggs.
  • Place filets of wild salmon over fresh rosemary to grill or bake.
  • Sauté dried rosemary with mushrooms and olive oil, and serve over lamb or pork chops.
  • Mash parsnips with a little dried rosemary.
  • Combine rosemary with bay leaves, chives, garlic, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, sage or thyme.

Turmeric is a very well known anti-inflammatory spice.

  • For the greatest healing power, combine turmeric with olive oil and black pepper.
  • Add turmeric when sautéing onion and garlic.
  • Add a pinch of turmeric to an omelet.
  • Sauté sliced green cabbage with olive oil, turmeric and sesame seeds.
  • Sauté spinach with turmeric, olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper.
  • Combine with chili, cilantro, cloves, coconut milk, coriander, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, mustard seeds, paprika and black pepper.

Herbs and spices are an essential component of a healthy diet. Aim to use herbs and spices with every meal or snack. Seek out new recipe ideas as well as adding herbs and spices to your favorite meals and snacks.

If you want more ideas for adding functional flavors to your diet, consider our e-cookbook, Boredom Busting Functional Flavors.

Registered Dietitian Day DISCOUNTS!!

RDN DAY SPECIALWednesday, March 9th is Registered Dietitian Day. Give us a call to schedule a new service or purchase an e-cookbook. If you’ve been considering meeting with a dietitian, now is the time to call! If you are new to Nourishing Results or already working with us, it’s time for a Grocery Store Tour, Home Cooking Class or other Interactive Nutrition Session we offer. Call March 9th and you will receive 35% off any new service or e-cookbook. NOTE: Your service does not need to be provided on March 9th, just call us on RDN Day to receive the discount.

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