You might not put much thought into the herbs and spices you use to flavor your meals, but these powerhouses can do more than add heat to your chilis, flavor your smoothies, or provide zing for your stir-fries.
Long revered for their taste and pleasing aromas, these seasonings have also been shown to help prevent and treat disease, relieve pain, and improve mood. Plus, they are low in calories and can substitute for less-healthy additives like sugar and salt. Use this guide to help you take advantage of the many benefits these amazing natural flavorings have to offer.
About herbs and spice
While herbs and spices both come from plants, herbs are their leafy parts while spices are their dried flowers, fruit, seeds, or bark. You can use herbs fresh or dried and spices whole or ground, though whole spices, such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns, will keep their flavor the longest.
However you prefer these seasonings, you can benefit from their numerous nutritional and health-promoting qualities. Most have high concentrations of antioxidants, natural compounds that can help lower inflammation in your body and possibly reduce your risk of developing illnesses like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, they contain vitamins and minerals that have potential benefits such as improving your bone strength, metabolism, and eye health and lowering your blood cholesterol and sugar levels.
Ten best herbs and spice
This member of the mint family has many varieties, including sweet basil and Thai basil. It has both vitamin K, which can foster healthy bones and help wounds heal, and magnesium, a mineral essential to the health of your heart, brain, and musculoskeletal system. You can also use basil’s invigorating aroma to combat fatigue.
Try this recipe: Fra Diavolo Seafood Gnocchi
Derived from the peppercorn (the dried berry of the tropical Piper nigrum vine), black pepper is not only spicy and aromatic but also contains numerous vitamins and minerals. Plus, it can increase the amount of nutrients your body absorbs. Consider grinding whole peppercorns rather than using commercially ground pepper to get the most out of this spice’s health benefits.
Try this recipe: Black Pepper Bacon Pineapple Fried Rice
Pleasantly fragrant, cinnamon is the inner bark of various Cinnamomum tree species. Whether ground or in stick form, it can be used as a delicious sugar substitute for your coffee, cereal, or stew to help you fight off both bacterial infections and viruses that cause colds and the flu.
Try this recipe: Apple-Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
Originally from the Middle East and India, iron-rich cumin is made from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant. It’s popularly used in chilies and curries and may improve digestion and metabolism. It may even be helpful in managing diabetes since it can lower blood glucose levels.
Try this recipe: Charred Cumin Cauliflower with Tahini Honey
This leafy herb originates from the Mediterranean region and is prevalent in Greek and Italian cuisines. Try mixing it with other fresh greens, in a vinaigrette, or in a pesto to take advantage of its ability to fight bacterial and viral infections, reduce inflammation, and lower blood sugar levels.
Try this recipe: Herb Tofu-Stuffed
Often featured in Hungarian, Spanish, and Mexican cuisines, paprika is an orange- or red-hued spice made from ground dried peppers and can be sweet, hot, or smoky in flavor. Research shows paprika may soothe inflammation, reduce risk of cancer, and lower blood cholesterol levels.
Try this recipe: Harissa BBQ Beef
Whether you prefer curly or flat leaf, munching on parsley can provide you with vitamins and minerals that may support bone and eye health and reduce your risk of heart disease. You can toss it in marinades and salad dressings or use it to garnish your seafood.
Try this recipe: Salmon Cakes with Side Salad
Delicious in beverages and on chicken and potatoes, rosemary has a distinctive woody fragrance and has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It may also augment metabolic health and help injuries heal faster.
Try this recipe: Savory Olive and Rosemary Bread Pudding
Native to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, sage features an earthy aroma and a peppery flavor. It’s believed to help lower blood cholesterol and sugar levels, promote both brain and oral health, and mitigate menopausal symptoms. The scent of sage oil is also frequently used in aromatherapy.
Try this recipe: Sweet Peppers and Pork with Sage and Honey
This bright-gold spice is made by drying and often grinding the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which is known to have anti-inflammatory and illness- and infection-fighting abilities. You can savor this peppery-tasting spice in curries, on roasted vegetables, and in drinks like teas or smoothies.
Try this recipe: Pork Vindaloo over Basmati Rice
Whether you want to eat more nutritious foods or inject extra flavor into your favorite recipes, adding herbs and spices might just be the way to go.