Spices and herbs are the treasures of our earth. Grown from plants, spices and herbs enhance our foods with delectable flavors while at the same time healing our bodies with their incredible superpower properties.
The healing power of plants dates back thousands of years. In ancient Pompeii in 79 AD, evidence was found for the use of bitter herbs and herbal remedies to cure everything from pain, constipation, poison ingestion, sprains, earaches and headaches as well as for the prevention of hemorrhage during childbirth.
Whether you cook a lot, just prepare simple foods or make smoothies often, start adding spices and herbs to your life EVERY DAY. These are available, inexpensive forms of natural medicines and we would be remiss if we didn’t take advantage of their incredible nutritional benefits.
When adding fresh herbs to home-cooked dishes, add them at the end to preserve their flavors which can dull with cooking time. When adding dried herbs or spices to recipes, add them at the beginning because it takes a while for their flavors to bloom and infuse the dish.
It’s best to actually eat herbs and spices rather than take them in supplement form as they are better absorbed when eaten. Frying or grilling with spices will decrease their antioxidant content, while microwaving, simmering or stewing with spices will increase it.
Here are some of the healthiest spices to use and ways to use them:
Cinnamon: lends a sweet taste without added sugar; 1 teaspoon has the same antioxidant power as a bowl of blueberries
-lowers blood sugar in type 2 diabetics
-reduces high cholesterol
-enhances the immune system
-good for the heart
Stir some cinnamon into your coffee daily to help you eliminate sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal or on a sliced apple for a delicious afternoon snack.
Oregano: contains more antioxidants than apples, oranges or blueberries
-excellent source of Vitamin K (blood-clotter)
-rich concentration of antioxidant phytonutrients
Add oregano heavy-handedly to homemade or store-bought pizza, pasta sauce, homemade minestrone soup and Greek chicken!
Basil: easy to grow in a garden or on your windowsill
-excellent source of Vitamin K
-antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory
Top a homemade or store-bought pizza with fresh basil leaves or make a tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella salad for lunch or dinner. Layer some fresh basil leaves onto a sandwich.
Cilantro: this herb is known as coriander in other parts of the world
-good for heart health
Top chili or any Mexican dish like tacos or fajitas with fresh cilantro for a crisp, fresh taste! Add fresh cilantro to your salads.
Parsley: 10 sprigs provides the daily recommended amount of Vitamin K
-excellent source of Vitamin K
Don’t eliminate parsley when a recipe calls for it! Mix chopped parsley into your stews, sauces and soups. Throw parsley in your smoothies to make them extra healthy.
Rosemary: can stimulate memory and increase alertness
-powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
-excellent for detoxification
Use fresh rosemary on top of grilled steak or chicken or in a marinade.
Turmeric: the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, found in turemeric, have been shown to be comparable to potent prescription and OTC medicines
-reduces overall inflammation and brain inflammation that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and depression
-reduces pain and inflammation of arthritis
Eat turmeric daily! Shake some into your smoothie, sprinkle some on scrambled eggs, season sweet potatoes and vegetables with turmeric before roasting.
Ginger: chew on a ginger chew to help with stomach upset
Chew on ginger candies to help with nausea. Add fresh or powdered ginger to smoothies or to any Asian dish!
Garlic: Let freshly chopped or minced garlic sit for a few minutes before adding it to recipes to improve its nutritional availability.
-antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal
-keep blood vessels flexible to aid in avoiding atherosclerosis
This basic spice can be included in nearly EVERY savory dish you cook! Mix some raw minced garlic into your homemade salad dressings and marinades, too.
Cayenne Pepper: add cayenne pepper to food to help with fat burning!
-reduces pain signals to the brain
-reduces ulcer growth
-may aid in speeding up metabolism
If you like a little heat, get in the habit of adding cayenne pepper to all of your dishes!
More ways to spice up your life:
Think about doubling the amount of spices a recipe calls for to increase the flavor and health benefit of your meals. For example, if a marinara sauce calls for 1 tablespoon of oregano, why not add 2 tablespoons instead? If your butternut squash soup calls for 1 teaspoon of ginger, why not make it two?
Make more Indian-inspired meals to use more turmeric and curry; make more Greek-inspired meals to use more oregano and rosemary; make more Italian-inspired dishes to use more basil and parsley; make more Asian-inspired dishes to use more ginger; make more Mexican-inspired dishes to use more cilantro and chili powder.
Start an herb garden. Many fresh herbs are simple to grow inside and outside!
So spice up your life daily, not only in the bedroom, but also in the kitchen to improve the taste of your meals and the health of your body and mind!