How to Use Herbs and Spices to Improve Your Healthy Lifestyle
The right combination of herbs and spices can jazz up any boring dish, but do they do your body any good? The days of thinking these flavour enhancers are nothing more than seasonings are over. Experts understand the healing potential and the preventative power of common herbs and spices. They are super foods that go a long way towards improving health outcomes without the addition of extra fat and calories.
What Is the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?
Spices generally come from a tropical plant or tree parts like seeds, fruits or bark. Once dried, they add a strong flavour to your foods. Herbs, on the other hand, are leaves and stems that you use either fresh or dried. They don’t have the same kick as a spice; the flavour is usually more subtle.
Finding the Right Balance of Flavor
If you are new to the art of seasoning, you’ll find the best way to balance those fiery spices with the distinctive flavor of herbs is to start small. Try adding just a little of something to a dish and then build as you find combinations that work.
Since you're trying out new flavours anyway, why not move the most powerful ingredients to the top of your list and use their benefits to enhance your healthy lifestyle? You can learn to add the right spice or herb just when you need it, like a pinch of mint to ease an upset stomach.
It takes a relatively small amount of these healthy flavourings each day to see the benefits. For instance, you’ll enjoy the antioxidant power of cinnamon with just 1.5 teaspoons a day sprinkled on your cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or toast.
What You Can Learn From Anise
Anise, a sweet spice created from seeds, has a versatile flavour profile and many healthful benefits. With a taste like black licorice, it can be added to everything from your morning coffee to your evening dessert while also working to calm an upset stomach, reduce the pain of menstrual cramps and increase breastmilk production. It has estrogen-like properties that might ease some of the symptoms of menopause as well. Nature is full of these little added benefits that make life easier.
Using Spices to Control Blood Pressure
The National Health Service (NHS) suggest adults limit their sodium intake to 2.4g per day. That goes down significantly as you get older and hypertension becomes a concern. Instead of that potentially deadly salt, why not add spices like paprika, cumin, saffron and turmeric to dishes that normally require more sodium to enhance their flavor? A study published in Cell Metabolism explains that capsaicin is a natural way to lower your blood pressure, too.
More Flavor Means Better Weight Management
Eating is as much about enjoyment as it is about nutrition. Bland food is just not that satisfying, and if you don’t get satisfaction from your meal, you’re more likely to overeat. A pinch of flavour from the right spice might be the difference between a healthy portion and eating too much.
Studies show that certain spices boost your fat-burning power, too. Dihydrocapsiate, the key compound in chili peppers, increases your ability to burn fat, for example.
Stick to the Classics or Go a Little Crazy
Some of the most common herbs and spices offer the best benefits, so you don’t have to be a flavour connoisseur to improve your health.
- Basil – Reduces blood cholesterol
- Oregano – Works against some food-borne illnesses
- Rosemary – Works as a strong antioxidant
- Nutmeg – Fights bacteria and fungus infections
- Thyme – Boosts energy levels and helps fight inflammation
These are all ingredients you probably have in your cupboard right now. If the idea of experimenting appeals to you, here’s a list of less common choices:
- Cilantro – High in vitamin K and useful to promote bone health
- Dandelion – A favorite with Native American healers, you can enjoy the greens on a salad or sprinkle the dried form on food. It’s a natural diuretic.
- Fennel – A popular choice in the Mediterranean, it helps control bloating and gas
- Lavender – Goes great in tea and helps to promote sleep. Combine it with mint to calm your stomach
The right diet is at the very heart of living a healthy lifestyle, but there is no reason your food has to be bland. Kick it up a notch with the right spices and herb choices to get more bang from each calorie.
Huffington Post, Healthy Herbs
Fitness, 9 Spices and Herbs That Can Keep You Healthy
Mayo Clinic, Slide Show: Guide to Herbs and Spices, June 18, 2016
WebMD, Spices and Herbs: Their Health Benefits, Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD
National Health Society, Salt: The Facts, 10/02/2015
Writer Bio: Darla F is a full-time freelance writer and healthcare professional who specializes in helping agencies meet their goals by developing creative and engaging content.
- Darla Ferrara