Sustenance

11 herbs and spices that promote wellness

Sustenance

11 herbs and spices that promote wellness

Want to add more flavor to your meals, but not fat or calories? Start with herbs and spices, says Nancy Waldeck, a chef at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

“There is a difference between herbs and spices,” she explains. “Herbs are the leafy part of a plant and spices usually come from the seed, but they have similar health benefits.”

Chef Nancy shared her top 11 herbs and spices that promote health and wellness. Most can be found at your local grocery store in the produce department or spice section.

  1. Cilantro. This herb is easy to find at most grocery stores and contains fiber, iron and phytonutrients. I also use coriander seeds because of their citrusy taste. They really enhance the flavor of summer vegetables.”

  2. Turmeric. “This spice is a nutritional powerhouse commonly used in Indian and Mexican dishes. It adds a beautiful yellow color and earthy taste to your food, while working as a potent anti-inflammatory thanks to its active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin may be beneficial for arthritis and cancer-related inflammation.”

  3. Smoked paprika. “Made from smoked peppers, it contains capsaicin, a powerful antioxidant. This spice has an almost meaty flavor and is a great way to add a savory taste to your dishes without meat. Add smoked paprika to sautéed onions, veggie burgers and baked beans.”

  4. Garlic. “We use a lot of garlic in our Cancer Wellness cooking classes. Studies have shown garlic is a powerful cancer fighter. It also adds so much flavor. If you grate a clove with a fine grater, the garlic will melt into your food and add flavor without you having to chop it. Buy a whole clove if possible. Like any other fresh fruit, vegetable or herb, you get the most antioxidants if it’s fresh and not in a jar.”

  5. Cinnamon. “Cinnamon is part of my warm spices group, which also includes ginger, nutmeg and cardamom. It has powerful effects on blood sugar and triglycerides for those living with diabetes. Cinnamon is easy to add to food, like cereal or yogurt. You can also combine it with honey and add it to frozen yogurt or fresh fruit.”

  6. Ginger. “Ginger has been used to treat motion sickness, pain, swelling and arthritis in some countries. It is an anti-inflammatory. I love using ginger because it adds a real pop to savory food, especially things like beans, veggie burgers, Asian dishes and salad dressing. To make a simple vinaigrette, combine olive oil, white wine vinegar, honey, ginger, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard. Mix well and serve over salad greens.”

  7. Basil.Fresh basil smells so good. We love passing around a sprig in our kitchen club. It has a lot of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. In past, basil was even used to cover small wounds. It is also a rich source of magnesium.”

  8. Parsley. “Many people think of this herb as a garnish, but it contains vitamins A, C and K, as well as heart-healthy folate.”

  9. Fresh mint. “At Cancer Wellness, we use mint to garnish fruit and desserts. It is actually a relative of basil. I love to add fresh mint to basil pesto. I use a mixture that is ¾ basil and ¼ mint. Anytime I use basil or cilantro, I’ll use mint because it really brings out the flavor in these herbs. It is also great for an upset stomach.”

  10. Rosemary. “This herb helps with blood vessel health and may reduce heart attack risk. Rosemary is really nice on roasted nuts. Spread almonds onto a sheet pan, roast in oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. After you take the almonds out of the oven, drizzle them with a teaspoon of olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt, chopped fresh rosemary and freshly cracked black pepper. Rosemary is also great with chicken, potatoes, green vegetables, vinaigrettes and homemade tomato sauce.”

  11. Cayenne pepper. “Again, peppers contain the antioxidant capsaicin. It is believed to be a natural pain reliever, may reduce cholesterol and contains vitamin A. Some research indicates peppers may increase your metabolism, and I’m all for that. If you enjoy spicy foods, this is a great way of getting vitamin benefits and helping your health.”

Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with the herbs and spices Chef Nancy mentioned above. With a little practice, you’ll find yourself incorporating them into your everyday meals.

“I find people are reluctant to experiment with herbs and spices, so start off by making salad dressing with fresh herbs or add them to your salad greens,” she says. “You can really make your food have more ‘zing’ and nutritional benefits, without adding fat and calories.”

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