Herbs and Spices

Not only are many herbs and spices delicious and aromatic, but they’re among some of the healthiest foods ever studied. So in addition to making other healthy foods tastier, they provide giant nutritional benefits in their own right.

Common cooking herbs include parsley, basil, thyme, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, mint, and sage. The most common spices you’ll find in any supermarket include black pepper, cinnamon, paprika, garlic and onion powder (alliums in the house!), powdered ginger, cloves, cumin, ground chili peppers, turmeric, and cardamom.

Their specific nutritional profiles vary, but most herbs and spices are superfoods in their own right, rich in antioxidants, which give them their disease-fighting properties. For example, chili peppers are an excellent source of antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoids. Leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil contain high amounts of vitamins A and K1. Cumin is rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and manganese, and contains omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.

Like many superheroes, spices can sometimes bring out the best in each other. Black pepper combined with turmeric, for example, increases the bioavailability of curcumin (the active polyphenol in turmeric) by 2,000%.

Many herbs and spices contain compounds that soothe the GI tract and promote digestive health. Some protect against cancer, some support cardiovascular health, some protect the immune system, and some regulate blood sugar and prevent type 2 diabetes. And many have been used for centuries to reduce pain and inflammation. While specific herbs and spices have specific uses and benefits, the key thing here is variety. The more different kinds you use, the more superfood benefits you’ll get.

Use herbs and spices in your cooking to add flavor, from sweet to umami to herbaceous to spicy. You can keep dishes exciting while ditching the excess sugar, salt, and oil, making them healthier at the same time. Experiment with different flavor profiles and turn an ordinary dish into a gourmet one.

Certain herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, and cardamom, also go well in sweet dishes like desserts, oatmeal and breakfast porridge, sauces, and hot drinks.

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