The buzzword today is “superfoods,” and our 10 healthy herbs and spices are definitely superfoods. Using these herbs and spices does more than add a kick in flavor; using them kicks up nutrition and helps to guard your overall health. This list is not exhaustive, but you can’t go wrong adding this selection of herbs and spices to your repertoire.
According to a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon may be useful in controlling blood sugar surges. In addition, it may be useful as an anti-inflammatory, and other published studies show it has anti-microbial properties.
Another great tasting anti-inflammatory, ginger is a proven remedy for nausea. This Asian favorite can be used exactly as ground cinnamon, and you can also slice it or dice it and add to many dishes, especially Asian dishes. Keep in the freezer and break off a section anytime you want to use raw ginger.
Allicin, the sulfur compound found in garlic, is responsible for many of its health benefits. Garlic is well-known for enhancing the cardiovascular system and for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps the body assimilate iron, and provides a source of selenium.
Turmeric is the “hot new kid on the block.” Suddenly, turmeric is everywhere, not just in Indian foods and curry. An anti-inflammatory, it’s also known for its ability to help with respiratory congestion. Curcumin is the compound in turmeric that’s responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Bharat Aggarwal has conducted studies at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Houston) that show some promise for turmeric as an anti-cancer agent.
Got aches and pains? Give them over to cayenne. Capsaicin is the substance in cayenne that provides relief from inflammation. It’s known to boost immunity, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, clear your sinuses in a heartbeat, but you may not know that it can help to control weight through thermogenesis. Even more counterintuitive is the fact that it’s been shown to prevent stomach ulcers. Who knew!
Long known to the Mexicans and people of the Mediterranean region for its anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties, oregano is also rich in nutrients. It’s particularly rich in Vitamin K and it’s a good source of fiber. It’s an appropriate spice with meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, soups and stews.
A recent study conducted on animals at the University of Missouri, reported in Cancer Prevention Research, shows that parsley can stop some breast cancer cells from reproducing. Other studies in animals show that parsley may be helpful in inhibiting tumor growth in lungs by mitigating carcinogens found in cigarette and charcoal grill smoke. Its oils also provide flavonoids, Vitamins C, A and folic acid.
A study published in the Journal of Microbiology Methods reveals that the essential oils in basil are effective as an anti-bacterial in antibiotic-resistant strains such as Staphylococcus. Add to meat, salad dressings, etc., to protect against bacteria. Basil also contains an enzyme that acts in a similar method to the anti-inflammatory components of aspirin and ibuprofen. It’s also known to scavenge free-radicals.
Cloves pack a whopping serving of manganese and contain flavonoids. It’s classified as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and (as many know firsthand) is useful as an emergency analgesic for toothaches or other irritations in the mouth, and it’s a great way to freshen the breath naturally. Never mind that it tastes so wonderfully exotic!
Another popular herb in Mediterranean cooking, rosemary is said to help with mental alertness and clarity. Studies suggest that it can help with memory, as well. Meats are known to develop cancer-causing compounds when grilled, and recent studies conducted by Kansas State University show that rosemary can help to lessen the problem. Rosemary is also an anti-bacterial agent when used to flavor meat.
Spices and herbs are part of nature’s medicine chest. Use them liberally to kick up your defenses and to kick up your cooking. The say that variety is the spice of life, so go through this list of healthy herbs and spices, and if you spot one that you’ve never used, give it a try. You may just find a whole new avenue of flavor waiting for you.