We hear so much about what we should not eat these days, and to be sure there’s no shortage of foods that are bad for our health, but we should not overlook the foods we should eat. And in the quest for what we should eat, start small…healthy spices and herbs added to your food boost the health-o-meter.
Don’t overlook that dash of flavor because when used well, it will do more than spice up your food.
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- Turmeric. This orange spice has been the biggest game changer for me in overcoming chronic joint and muscle pain. I started using it in my diet by making this Sunshine Tea to start my day and in Golden Milk, which is divine on a cold, winter night. Then, I began taking
it in capsule-form to get a higher dosage to better control pain. I am not pain-free, but the difference in my daily pain level from a year ago is like night and day. Turmeric provides a natural anti-inflammatory solution with few side effects. By lowering the body’s inflammatory response, turmeric can help prevent or treat heart disease. Prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, in contrast, can cause organ damage, such as kidney failure. Ibuprofen, for example, has been linked to heart attacks. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties are best activated when combined with black pepper, so it’s great to use in spice mixes. If you purchase it as a supplement, consider this brand which is budget friendly and includes the element found in black pepper to boost turmeric’s absorption.
- Cinnamon. Probably the most versatile on the list of healthy spices, cinnamon pairs well with sweet and savory food. It is a powerful antioxidant that can help control blood sugar levels and improve blood cholesterol levels. Some studies are investigating its impact on preventing plaque formation in relation to Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Cinnamon is such a powerhouse, that just the little you sprinkle on oatmeal or stir in Golden Milk can be enough to tip the scales in your favor. Simply Organic brand is a good choice, or if you buy it in bulk, I like Frontier Co-op Organic Fair Trade.
- Cilantro. An herb that can be found in the cuisines of various countries, cilantro is also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. Known for its ability to chelate (bind) heavy metals, cilantro also has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. Regardless of what kind of food you like, you can find some way to add cilantro – leaf or powder. I like it in my fermented salsa (leaf), but then there’s tacos (powder), chicken tangine (powder and leaf), and tortilla soup (powder and leaf).
- Ginger. If your mom gave you ginger ale for an upset tummy, you know what I’m talking about here. During my first pregnancy, I traveled for my job, and I carried a bottle of ginger ale with me everywhere. This was when you could still bring liquids on a plane. Of course, the sugar content of most ginger ale drinks is not a good choice, but you can make homemade ginger tea to soothe an upset stomach or simmer down indigestion. Simply heat a cup of water and add a slice of fresh ginger (found in the produce section of your local grocery store) or a teaspoon of dried ginger (adapt to your taste and need). You can sweeten slightly with raw honey. Sip slowly. For chronic digestive issues, you can make or buy a ginger kombucha, which gives you the fizzy probiotic drink, like the popular ginger ale but without high fructose corn syrup, to drink regularly.
- Garlic. A cousin of the onion, garlic is also a favorite in many different cuisines. A little garlic goes a long way, but you might be surprised how much that little does. An ounce of garlic contains manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, and trace amounts of other nutrients. Famed for its cold-fighting properties, and not just because it keeps away people who are potential germ-carriers, garlic boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces cholesterol levels.
With the exception of cinnamon, all these healthy spices and herbs can be grown in the average kitchen garden to provide an abundant supply of fresh seasonings for your family’s meals. It is more economical and healthy to mix your own spice blends because you can limit the amount of sodium used in the blend, as well as avoid unhealthy additives, such as MSG.
If you have a favorite seasoning blend, post the recipe in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to tweak my seasonings.