Spices and herbs are often relegated to the sideline when it comes to healthy eating, but many deserve more recognition for the nutrients they provide. While small in size they pack more antioxidants and other healthy substances than meets the eye. Every time you flavour your meals with herbs or spices you are literally “upgrading” your food without adding a single calorie.
If you’re looking to round out your healthy lifestyle, you’ll want to stock up on the following herbs and spices and use them generously in your cooking, or use them on their own to enhance the absorption and benefits received.
It reduces blood sugar levels; when eaten with sweet foods it helps stabilise sugar spikes. It’s also anti-inflammatory, kills bacteria and fungi so is fantastic for the gut, and is cholesterol-reducing.
Try adding it to sweet foods — desserts, cakes, breads, smoothies — or eat with fruit to minimise sugar rushes.
An anti-aging multitasker containing powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which also works as a gentle liver detoxer. This herb also stimulates the immune system and helps to improve the digestion.
Goes with roasted vegetables, meat, and fish, as well as delish in breads, crackers, and salads. Drink as tea or use to flavor nut milk.
Whoppingly high in chlorophyll, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, and other minerals, with anti-inflammatory flavonoids that act as free-radical scavengers, this herb also has anti-cancer properties and blood-sugar-reducing effects.
Parsley can be used as you would salad greens, in smoothies, and tabbouleh, or add it to soups, pesto, casseroles, or stir-fries. Add the leaves near the end of cooking, to retain the nutritional value.
A mood and sleep enhancer used to help with anxiety and depression and soothe the nervous system. It can ease headaches, too. The essential oil found in the flowers is what you need and you can dry the buds. Some people inhale the essential oil or use a lavender pillow, but I like to eat it, too.
You can add dried lavender to meat dishes instead of oregano, sage, or thyme and use it to flavour cakes and baked goods, too. Drink lavender tea before bedtime.
Turmeric is one of nature’s most effective anti-inflammatories, making it adept at fighting age-related diseases from arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, inhibits the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies and slows the spread of some cancers in animal studies, according to the American Cancer Society. Studies also suggest curcumin may improve heart health. In a study conducted at Ohio State University, researchers found curcumin helped reduce levels of triglycerides (circulating fats linked with heart disease) and increased levels of nitric oxide, which can help lower blood pressure.
Along with its ability to fight age-related diseases, turmeric also may help us look younger. In Asia, turmeric is used as a beauty treatment to tighten skin and reduce inflammation. To try it, mix turmeric with flour and milk or water to make a paste, scrub it all over the body, then rinse off in the shower.