Cupboard Essentials: Healthiest Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices have been used for centuries to bring life to bland, unexciting meals.
They embody all kinds of different backgrounds and cultures that can elicit memories of home. Herbs and spices can help retain flavor in food while cutting back on dietary fat, sugar and sodium.
And they were the reason Columbus discovered America after all!
Herbs and spices benefit more than just your palate, they can provide a substantial asset to your health as well. Get to know a few of these herbs and spices to jazz up your life.
Herbs vs Spices
It’s important to first know the primary difference between herbs and spices.
Herbs: leaves of low-growing shrubs. They can be fresh, dried, whole, crushed or ground. As a general rule, add fresh herbs near the end of the cooking time or just before serving to avoid overheating which can cause flavor and aroma losses.
Spices: come from the bark, root buds, fruit or seeds of plants and trees. They are typically dry and pungent. Spices serve all sorts of purposes but I want to mention a few to take a second glance at.
When it comes to cilantro it seems like you either love it or you hate it. Interestingly there is a good reason behind why so many people dislike this herb. If you taste a mild, soapy flavor when you consume cilantro, blame your genes.
About 14% of the world’s population experience this phenomenon due to their genetic makeup. Others find it simply delicious.
The term “cilantro” refers to the leaf of the coriander plant while “coriander” refers to the spice made from seeds of the same plant.
These terms are used for different purposes and are not interchangeable. If you are looking to use cilantro, it is best paired with fish.
You may associate cilantro with traditional Mexican style foods.
It’s presence in Mexican culture provides the foundation for flavor in many everyday Mexican cuisine. Fortunately for Mexican-lovers, the cilantro herb actually contains powerful phytonutrients that have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and health promoting effects.
There really is no better aroma than the scent of a fresh basil plant. Keeping basil around the house isn’t just pretty but extremely convenient in the kitchen.
Basil is typical of Italian culture and can be found paired with tomatoes or alongside mild cheeses.
Fresh basil leaves have high levels of Vitamin K, a vitamin used for proper blood clotting and bone health. Nevertheless, much like other herbs, basil also contains a wide range of antioxidants and even antibacterial properties.
Cayenne pepper comes from the fruit of a red hot chili pepper. Known for its exceptionally spicy flavor, this spice packs a punch.
Capsaicin is the name of the active ingredient in cayenne pepper that promotes health benefits. It has been isolated and used as the active ingredient for pharmaceutical purposes to treat arthritis and muscle pain.
The heat that is emitted from this potent spice can actually raise your body temperature.
This side effect has implications on increasing calories burned and promoting weight loss.
Its red hue adds a beautiful last minute touch to meals but be careful, too much can take away enjoyment of your meal. Start with just a 1/8 of a teaspoon to taste so you won’t feel like you’re lighting your mouth on fire.
Surely I’m not alone in thinking the smell of cinnamon elicits a warm and cozy feeling?
Usually associated with winter and the holidays, this spice is typical of sweeter foods. Though it does not deliver sugar to the bloodstream, it has a naturally sweet essence.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of several trees.
It is naturally high in manganese, a mineral that supports skin integrity and blood sugar control. When you eat a high-carbohydrate meal with a sprinkle of cinnamon, this spice will slow the rate that your body empties glucose into your blood. This finding significantly helps patients with type 2 diabetes respond to insulin.
Add some extra cinnamon to your coffee or sprinkle it on your fruit for some extra flavor.
For hundreds of years turmeric has been a medicinal staple of Asian and Middle Eastern culture. It has shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that have been used to treat symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
But what scientists are also finding is turmeric’s strong anti-oxidant properties prevent cellular damage of nerves and can actually slow down the progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
If you have never tasted turmeric before, it’s peppery, warm flavor brings light to any dish. Its vibrant yellow-orange hue is commonly found in Middle Eastern dishes.
Whichever herb or spice you prefer, try to incorporate more of these into your everyday life to get all of the wonderful benefits that are part of the package.
Connect with Expert Bonnie R. Giller