Do you use herbs and spices in your cooking? Not only are they a great way to add tons of flavor to a dish, but they also provide many health benefits. Using herbs and spices in cooking also may eliminate the need for extra salt, fat, or sugar in a dish, without sacrificing taste. From heart health to cancer prevention, here are a few of the most beneficial herbs and spices around:
- Turmeric is a bright orange root that comes from the same family as ginger. It is great for reducing inflammation and may reduce incidence of some cancers. It can be found fresh or dried as a powder. Try it in soups, stews, curries, or mixed with yogurt as a dip. If you find the flavor too bitter, you can take turmeric as a supplement, but look for one that includes piperine or black pepper extract, which enhances absorption.
- Cinnamon is not only warming, delicious and versatile, but is also loaded with antioxidants. It has been shown to decrease inflammation, as well as decrease blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in some diabetics. Most of us are familiar with how to use cinnamon; sprinkle on oatmeal or yogurt, in baking, or on top of just about anything. My little secret-adding a dash to ground turkey or lamb really covers the natural gamey-ness of the meat.
- Ginger can be found as a fresh root or powdered and dried. I love the natural spiciness of fresh ginger root in a stir-fry or soup, or as a tea. Ginger is wonderful for combating nausea and stomach upset, and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Oregano, a wonderful Italian herb, is certainly delicious sprinkled on pizza, but also contains some very strong anti-bacterial agents that help fight infection. Oregano contains lots of antioxidants and is high in vitamin K. You can find oregano fresh or dried and it can be used in dishes from salad dressing to pasta sauce.
- Thyme, another herb with strong antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, is delicious in soups, stews, or roasts. It comes fresh or dried and can also be used for common skin problems such as acne and eczema.
- Chili peppers come in many varieties; fresh, dried, or ground, from the pretty spicy jalapeno to the super spicy habanero. The spicier the pepper, the higher the concentration of capsaicin, the compound that provides health benefits such as increasing circulation and providing high levels of antioxidants. As a topical cream, capsaicin has also been shown to relieve nerve pain. Use chili peppers in any dish you want to add spice too. And keep in mind that the seeds contain the highest amount of capsaicin, so to mellow out the spiciness of any chili pepper remove some or all of the seeds, while wearing gloves of course.
My recipe for this week was a simple looking soup with surprising delicious flavor. Cayenne pepper adds a nice kick of heat to warm you while filling you up with a plethora of fall vegetable goodness. Get the recipe for Autumn Vegetable Soup.