Spicing up the New Year | Jan. 11, 2012
Add some spice to your diet this year. Using herbs and spices in daily cooking not only adds flavor to meals but is also beneficial to your health. Herbs and spices are flavorful sources of antioxidants and may be protective against cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
Herbs come from the leaves of plants while spices come from the seeds, berries, bark or roots of plants. Examples of herbs include basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage. Common spices include allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, ginger, garlic, red pepper, saffron and turmeric.
A type of antioxidant called polyphenols provides many of the health benefits found in herbs and spices. Polyphenols are also found in fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine. This antioxidant compound helps protect cells from free radical damage. Free radical damage is believed to play a part in the development of chronic diseases and can lead to a weakened immune system. Defending against free radical damage strengthens immunity and is protective against chronic conditions.
Herbs and spices are concentrated sources of antioxidants. Cinnamon tops the list of herbs and spices in antioxidant capacity. One teaspoon of ground cinnamon has more antioxidant capacity than ½ cup blueberries. One teaspoon of dried oregano has more antioxidant content than a bar of chocolate. The antioxidant capacity of ½ teaspoon of curry power surpasses that of 1 cup spinach.
In addition to their health benefits, herbs and spices can add flavor to every meal. Seasoning your food with herbs and spices boosts the flavor without adding extra calories, salt or fat. Utilizing herbs and spices as seasonings is especially useful for those monitoring their sodium intake. High amounts of dietary sodium can elevate blood pressure, so swapping herbs and spices for salt promotes a healthy blood pressure level. Additionally, meals bursting with flavor will leave you feeling satisfied, which aids in weight control.
Spice us your new year by using a variety of herbs and spices to flavor your meals. Below are a few simple ideas for incorporating herbs and spices into your diet:
- Basil: Add fresh or dried basil to soups, pasta, pizza and other tomato dishes
- Cinnamon: Add to oatmeal, coffee, apple-sauce, pancake batter and fruit desserts
- Cloves: Use in pork, meats and stews or sprinkle in beverages such as black tea and apple juice
- Cumin: Use in chili, bean dishes, burritos, tacos and other Mexican dishes
- Dill: Add to fish, meats, soups, salads, breads, sauces and vegetables
- Garlic: Use in fish, meats, poultry, soups, salads and vegetables
- Ginger: Add to soups, vegetables, stir fries, or hot or iced teas; sprinkle meats, fish and poultry with ginger for an Asian flair
- Nutmeg: Sprinkle over squash, sweet potatoes, coffee beverages or pear dishes