6 spices to have on hand that will improve your health

While some flavors and spices seem to transport us directly to the holidays, the truth is that the benefits we can reap from spices are so valuable, we shouldn’t just assign them to one season. Not only do spices provide great health benefits, but the enhancements they bring to food make them a no-brainer cooking addition (with almost zero additional calories!). Think about what completes the smell and taste of a dish – it wouldn’t be the same without the flavors that help make that final dish taste so delightful. Check out these 6 spices to have on hand that will improve your health!

Cinnamon

Out of all the spices to have on hand, cinnamon is one of the most widely used. Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, which helps protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It can also improve some key risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

Studies have shown that cinnamon can even dramatically reduce fasting blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. It not only tastes great, but also provides manganese, iron, and calcium. Many think of cinnamon in baked goods, but you can also branch out with some new sweet and savory ideas!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Make a salty/sweet treat by adding cinnamon to popcorn.
  • Flavor plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and top with nuts/seeds.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon in your coffee or tea to add extra spice and flavor – or even your yogurt, like this recipe!

Ginger

Ginger is best known for its ability to ease nausea, motion sickness, and indigestion. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have benefits for not only your body, but your brain as well. It is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. All these things mean it is one of the most versatile spices to have on hand.

It has also been shown to be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain due to those anti-inflammatory properties. It may not have an immediate impact, but studies show it can be effective at reducing the day-to-day progression of muscle pain. It is a very common ingredient in recipes and cosmetics. Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Cut up fresh ginger and add to boiling water with a little honey and lemon to make a soothing tea.
  • Add minced garlic to stir-fries for an extra kick.
  • Add to baked goods, such as the pumpkin gingerbread muffin recipe at the bottom of this post.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg contains phytonutrients including beta-carotene and beta-crypotxanthin. These can improve blood circulation to the brain and enhance sleep. The flavor and therapeutic actions are believed to be due to the oil it contains.

Because of its antibacterial properties, nutmeg can also effectively treat bad breath, gum problems, and toothaches – therefore, nutmeg is a common ingredient in many brands of toothpastes. It is also a spice that is used in many sweet recipes, but nutmeg can be used in a variety of other ways!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle in milk in the evening to help achieve relaxation and induce sleep.
  • Add nutmeg to roasted carrots or winter squash for a unique savory side dish.
  • Mix with nuts, such as pecans, and roast in the oven for a tasty snack.

Related: using spices can drastically elevate your meal prep too. Need more tips on making sure meal prep is a part of your life? Check out this post!

Rosemary

The active components in rosemary are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic in nature. These powerful compounds include rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, betulic acid, and carnosol, which can boost immunity and fight bacterial infections.

Rosemary also may help ease indigestion and improve blood flow due to its stimulant effects. The aroma of rosemary alone has been linked to improving mood, clearing the mind, and relieving stress in those with chronic anxiety. Many use rosemary as a garnish, but there are a variety of other ways to use it.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Chop fresh rosemary and use in a variety of broth based-soups.
  • Sprinkle rosemary on bread dough before placing it in the oven to add extra flavor.
  • Flavor olive oil with dried or fresh rosemary for zestier salad dressings.

Sage

Sage is a member of the mint family and is also known for many antioxidant properties – which makes it one of the top spices to have on hand. Tea and essential oils derived from the leaves have been used to treat digestive and circulation problems, but it has also been used to increase concentration.

Sage contains vitamin K, an essential vitamin for the body that isn’t found in many common foods. Vitamin K is key in developing bone density and ensuring the integrity of our bones as we age. It is traditionally used in savory dishes, due to its peppery flavor, but see below for alternative uses.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle in an omelet with vegetables for a new breakfast.
  • Add to pesto with other herbs for a great flavor addition.
  • Top sage leaves on meats such as chicken, pork, or lamb.

Turmeric

Turmeric is popular worldwide, although until recently has not been commonly used in the U.S. It contains Curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian dishes, although you can find new twists on ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily lifestyle below!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle onto rice to bring out a wonderful color and flavor to an originally bland side dish.
  • Simmer turmeric with coconut milk and honey to make a comforting beverage.
  • Add fresh or ground turmeric to smoothies – the pungent flavor is usually well-masked but you’ll reap all the benefits!

Try This Recipe: Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup pure raw honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a muffin tin with liners and set aside.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients – be sure to not over-mix.
  • Scoop batter into muffin pan and distribute evenly.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes and until tops are golden brown.
  • Yields 12 muffins – store at room temperature for 3 days or refrigerate for 7 days.

Post written by FFC Gold Coast Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice.

 

 

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