Benefits of spices in food
Many of my favourite foods are very healthy and nutritious: antioxidant-rich fruits, green veggies, slow starches, oily fish and grass-fed meats are daily superfoods in my diet.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked sources of amazing nutrients is herbs and spices, which come with powerful health benefits while injecting flavour into our main dishes. Today, I want to cover 7 of the most healthful herbs and spices that you can use in your home.
While we don’t often consume herbs and spices in large quantities, even small doses can be powerful providers of nutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, cancer-fighting constituents, vitamins, minerals, and more.
Turmeric has become a hot topic in health food-o-sphere and for good reason. While it’s known for being added to delicious curries, its uses are becoming increasingly more versatile. I love it because it is so easy to add to the diet, which simply makes it easier to reap the amazing health benefits of this super spice.
First and foremost, turmeric is an incredible inflammation fighter. It can even make a significant difference in individuals who suffer from rheumatic pain. This is because of the constituent curcumin – its active constituent and yellow bioactive compound, lending turmeric its colour.
Ginger is another versatile spice that is really easy to use. Fresh ginger and ground ginger are both beneficial. You can even use ginger essential oil. I especially like to use it brewed in teas. It’s commonly known as a powerful remedy for an achy belly, but its benefits extend far beyond that. For me, ginger is often a part of my daily routine. Did you know it’s closely related to turmeric?
Like turmeric, it’s also anti-inflammatory. This is why it’s so soothing for an upset stomach which can often be traced to a root cause of inflammation somewhere down the line. Ginger can decrease markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein.
Cinnamon is another spice I find quite easy to use and lucky for me, it’s slightly sweet and pretty darn good for you.
I love its versatility and try to use it in savoury recipes as well. I especially love the ease of sprinkling some on raw or baked fruit for a healthy dessert or having some in a comforting and warming tea blend. Fresh ground cinnamon tastes best, and I also like to have sticks handy for brewing or grating which makes for absolutely explosive flavour. It’s one of my top 5 recommended spices for every kitchen.
Sage is one of the most beautiful herbs, and it’s so simple to grow at home. It smells great and tastes even better. I love it fresh, but it also works its magic dried and ground for easy use, especially outside of growing season. It adds a certain depth to meals, and a crispy sage leaf garnish can turn an ordinary meal into something extraordinary. No – sage isn’t just for the Thanksgiving or Christmas table! Use it all-year-round for its awesome health benefits.
You can use sage to boost cognition, so whether you choose to consume it or inhale the scent of it, you can expect a brain boost. It’s been known to increase memory recall and retention, so it may be a superfood for the mind. This may also be linked to the potential for the sage to be a preventative food for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Most leafy greens are fantastic for you, and parsley is no exception. This superfood really fits the definition because it is a concentrated source of nutrition, antioxidants, and more. Plus, it tastes amazing. It is extremely high in vitamin K, and a single half cup of parsley contains upwards of 500% of the daily recommendation.
Parsley also contains vitamin C, vitamin A, some folate (a B vitamin), and iron. It’s high in antioxidants which can reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress markers. It’s even considered a chemo-protective plant due to its properties being able to fight damage to DNA. Like most other herbs, parsley is high in minerals such as calcium.
Chilli is one of my favourite ways to spice things up. I love fresh chillis, ground chilli powder, and chilli flakes alike. Many spicy foods have unique health benefits – most notably, weight loss benefits – and chilli is no exception. Since this spice is derived from peppers, you also get many benefits from the veggie itself.
First and foremost, peppers contain even more vitamin C than an orange does. If you want some serious immune-boosting action, chillis are the way to go! In fact, chillis contain up to seven times the amount of vitamin C of an orange. Moreover, chilli contains vitamin A and vitamin E.
Cumin is a staple seed or ground spice in so many recipes. Its warm and earthy flavour is perfect for deepening the flavour profile of many different types of cuisine. Of course, you know exactly what cumin tastes like if you’re a taco enthusiast (and who doesn’t love tacos?). It tastes great, and it’s great for you.
Cumin is a great seed for digestion. One of its main compounds – thymol – aids in the production of bile, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes. This can improve the efficacy of digestion, naturally treat haemorrhoids or help prevent them, and reduce the severity of gas. Moreover, some of these benefits can be attributed to the fibre content found in cumin.
Rosemary is a delightful, aromatic, and healthy herb I always save a spot for in my herb garden. It looks gorgeous, smells gorgeous, tastes great, and even has a few sneaky benefits to boot. In Roman, Greek, and Egyptian culture, it’s regarded as sacred. What’s not to love about this vibrant green plant? You can use it fresh, ground, or in essential oil, form to receive the benefits. However, fresh rosemary will have the most bioavailable nutrient profile.
In terms of vitamins, fresh rosemary contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and other B vitamins such as folate and thiamin. It’s also high in fibre. In combination with its anti-inflammatory properties, these properties make rosemary a great herb for gut health and digestion. Rosemary may actually increase bile flow which improves digestion overall, and conditions like IBS or Crohn’s disease. You can brew rosemary in a tea to treat an upset stomach or nausea as well.