Spices and herbs have long been recommended for adding flavor to healthy meals. Using them may reduce the amount of salt and unhealthy fat used in meal preparation. However, the benefits extend far beyond taste! The nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants in spices and herbs are so concentrated that even using small amounts can have big impacts on health. From fighting infection to increasing metabolism, you do not want to miss out on these flavor enhancers!
1. Onion and garlic: While these are actually vegetables, the amount you use in cooking would classify them as flavor enhancers or seasonings. Onion and garlic are part of the allium food family and contain sulfur. Sulfur is part of glutathione, an antioxidant made in the body from amino acids that is a key factor in liver detoxification. Due to this, studies have shown a correlation between consumption of allium vegetables and reduced cancer risk.
2. Turmeric: This seasoning is a nutrition powerhouse. It contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the precursor to any disease state so adequate consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, including turmeric, can reduce risk for developing disease. Turmeric can be purchased on its own but is also found in curry powder.
3. Cinnamon: Recent research has shown that cinnamon can reduce blood sugar in those individuals with diabetes. Some research shows it may also reduce cholesterol. To reap the benefits without getting too much, it?s best to use ½ -1 tsp ground cinnamon per day rather than take supplements.
4. Chili powder: This spice contains capsaicin; a popular word among dieters. But for good reason! It has been shown to increase fat burning capacity and increase metabolism. To top it off, it may reduce blood pressure.
5. Oregano: This herb acts as an antioxidant and has antibacterial and antifungal qualities to fight off illness. It also seems to aid digestion. Oregano is so versatile in the kitchen and works well with most foods and flavors.
Below are some recipes for flavor AND health!
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
½ -1 tbsp chili powder, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Chop cauliflower and garlic. Toss together with oil and curry powder. Spread in single layer on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
Nutty Cinnamon Oatbran
½ cup raw oatbran (can use rolled oats)
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp maple syrup
1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
2 tbsp nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, etc) OR ¼ cup chopped nuts (brazil nuts, almond, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
Combine oatbran and milk in small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Once it starts to thicken, stir in vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup and berries. When desired consistency is reached, remove from heat and allow to thicken in the warm pot, 1-2 minutes. Pour into bowl and top with nut butter or peanuts and extra fruit if desired. *Can add berries after cooking if you prefer.
1 can low sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp tahini paste
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt
½ -1 tbsp turmeric (or to taste)
Combine all ingredients in food processor or high powered blender. Blend until combined. Serve with vegetables.
Easy Tomato Soup
2 cans low sodium diced tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
½ tbsp dried oregano or 2 tbsp fresh oregano
½ tbsp dried basil or ¼ cup fresh basil
Combine all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Pour into saucepan and heat on stove top. Serve.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD