THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF HERBS AND SPICES
Hands up who’s having another night of grilled chicken breast as you know it’s good for you? Who else is starting to feel like it’s getting kind of boring?
It need not be boring. Reach for your herbs and spices and you will not only make a plain but healthy meal taste sensational, it will also give you a boost of antioxidants (that cool substance that protects cells from damage). Spices are concentrated sources of antioxidants (Vizthum, 2018).
Herbs and spices have been used for centuries for both culinary and medicinal purposes. In food and beverages, they not only:
1. Enhance flavour
4. Can protect against acute and chronic diseases
There is now also ample evidence that they possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, glucose and cholesterol-lowering activities as well as properties that affect cognition and mood. (Jiang, 2019)
There are hundreds of herbs and spices that are used in cooking around the world each day. Finding the right ones for your meals need not be hard as most can be found at your garden, local supermarket, health food shop or markets.
I am going to talk about my top 4:
Everyone knows I am a huge fan of this spice.
It can be used so many different ways from sprinkling over apple, in yoghurt, in smoothies, stews, chilli and can even be used as a meat rub!
It is most known to lower blood sugar. It gives a sweet taste to food without the added sugar and studies have indicated it can help lower blood sugar in those with Type 2 Diabetes (Vizthum, 2018).
2. Turmeric/ the golden spice
Who doesn’t love a turmeric latte? But, did you know that before it became trendy as the latest superfood it was being and continues to be used in Indian curry dishes among a number of other dishes.
Add this powerhouse to vegetables or meats before you roast them, sprinkle on tacos or create a curry.
It is most known for its ability to reduce inflammation. Turmeric contains curcumin which in studies has shown to be effective in reducing pain, swelling and inflammation (Vizthum, 2018).
It has been used for thousands of years in Asian culture and has grown hugely in popularity for its versatility, health benefits and zingy taste.
Ginger can be used in salad dressings, baked goods, tea, smoothies and stir-fry dishes. It can be purchased fresh or dried.
It is great to be used for upset stomachs, diarrhea and nausea. It is well known for it’s benefits in pregnancy related nausea.
Majority of people are familiar with garlic. It’s very unique strong smell and use in cooking is common. Garlic is one of the key ingredients in a Mediterranean diet.
It can be purchased fresh or dried and used to flavour olive oil, vegetables, meat rubs, pasta sauces, Asian dishes, soups and salad dressings to name a few.
Garlic has shown that it may protect the heart from heart disease (Jiang, 2019). The most common benefit is that it is known for combating sickness in particular colds.
It is important in all this to remember the actual role of herbs and spices in the maintenance of health and specifically chronic diseases is still unclear. However, what we do know is that they contain a number of fantastic qualities that enhance health.
At a conference I went to years ago, Prof Manohar Garg presented on how to reduce chronic inflammation markers in the body, and the number one way we introduce inflammation to the body is through what we eat. His top foods for reducing inflammation included these spices: turmeric, ginger, peppers, cinnamon, and basil.
So, I challenge you to head out to your garden, local supermarket, etc and find some herbs and spices you have always wanted to try and start experimenting! Remember, keep it simple to start with and as you get more confident add extras.
Jiang, T.A. (2019). Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices (Volume 102 Issue 2). Journal of AOAC International.
Vizthum, D (2018) Spices with Healthy Benefits. John Hopkins University School of Medicine Research Centre.