Herbs and spices are key components of a healthy kitchen. Not only do they add flavor (and allow you to cut down on salt and sugar), but many herbs and spices boost impressive health benefits. Here are eight of the healthiest herbs and spices along with recipe suggestions to get you started.
An often overlooked spice health and flavor-wise, black pepper is starting to step into the spotlight. Black pepper helps to stimulate the digestive enzymes in the pancreas, which help to increase food and nutrient absorption. There is also some evidence that it has anti-tumor effects, helping to protect against oxidative damage. If you have a cold, try add a few shakes of black pepper to your chicken soup: it can help to thin out mucus to clear your nasal passages. Use black pepper on salads, chicken, steak and vegetables or add it to salad dressings and marinades. Try this Roasted Cauliflower with Chipotle Cream from Sara Haas or this Simple Chicken Soup from Diana Rice. It can also be tasty in desserts, tempering the sweet flavor and adding a hint of spice, like in this Dragon Fruit and Strawberry Poke from McCormick Gourmet.
This versatile herb is easy to grow yourself and can be used in it’s dried and fresh forms. Rosemary extract contains high amounts of polyphenols and has been found to have anti-tumor It also contains the antioxidant rosmarinic acid, which can have antibacterial and antiinflammatory effects. Rosemary adds a distinctive flavor to sauces, chicken or meat dishes, and roasted vegetables. Try this Rosemary Roasted Squash, Beets and Apples recipe from Byte Sized Nutrition featuring dried rosemary or use fresh rosemary this Rosemary Flax Focaccia Bread by Charlene at Euphoria Nutrition.
This south Indian spice gives foods a vibrant yellow hue and is often used in curry dishes. Many of the purported health benefits come from curcumin, the active compound in turmeric. Curcumin is thought to have antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antiinflammatory properties. Add turmeric to curries, rice dishes, soups, sauces and roasted meats. You can also add turmeric to hot drinks, like in my Turmeric Latte. Turmeric is also featured in this Creamy Carrot Cauliflower Soup by Amy Gorin Nutrition.
This versatile spice contains phenols and flavonoids, though to provide some of cumin’s medicinal properties. Cumin has been widely studied for the beneficial effects on a variety of diseases including diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer. Cumin is also thought to be good for digestion. Try this Masala Tofu Scramble from Shahzadi Devje, featuring cumin powder alongside coriander, curry powder, and garam masala. I’m also a fan of Dixya Bhattarai’s Cauliflower Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas which pairs cumin seeds with turmeric, and takes just minutes to make.
This spicy pizza-topping contains capsaicin, which has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Red pepper been linked to weight management and improved gastrointestinal health, and has potential anti-cancer effects. Just a dash will add some heat to your dishes. Try it in curries, casseroles, salad dressings, soups, or with chicken or beef meals. This Red Kale Chicken Salad from 80 Twenty Nutrition features a spicy peanut dressing using red pepper flakes for some heat. You can also use red pepper flakes to make a spicy Chili Oil, like this one from Marisa Moore – try it drizzled over cooked veggies or popcorn.
Like red pepper, paprika is also part of the capsaicin family and has antioxidant properties. Paprika is also a good source of nutrients: a teaspoon of paprika has 37 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 1.4 milligrams of iron. Paprika adds a smoky flavor to soups, stews, salads or eggs and it works well as a spice rub or marinade for chicken or meat. Try this Everyday Roasted Chicken with Maple + Smoked Paprika from Katie Cavuto at Nourish Breathe Thrive, or this Vegan BLT Quinoa Bowl featuring paprika from Chelsey at C It Nutritionally.
This warming spice is a good source of antioxidants including vitamin C. It can help combat nausea and an upset stomach. Fresh ginger should be peeled before use, then can be grated or sliced and added to dishes. Dried ginger is a versatile spice that can be used in a variety of recipes like this Ginger Spiced Apple Oatmeal with Almond Butter from Linzy Nutrition or these Soy Ginger Roasted Chickpeas from Salubrious RD. Try fresh ginger in these Carrot Ginger Energy Balls or this Coconut Ginger Chicken from Teaspoon of Spice.
Recent research has found cinnamon to show promise in helping to manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It’s also linked to improved digestion. Cinnamon helps add natural sweetness to oatmeal, yogurt, french toast, smoothies and more. It also adds a hint of spice to desserts like this Apple Cinnamon Raisin Sorghum Bake by Lauren at Nutrition Starring You and this Roasted Yam and Apple Spread. Or try these Cinnamon Roasted Almonds from Nutrition a la Natalie for a tasty snack.
For more flavor ideas, check out this Guide to Pairing Herbs!
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