Who says “health food” has to be boring and bland? Giving up the fat doesn’t have to mean giving up the flavor! So trade in your butter for something better: here’s a list of spices that add zest to any meal, and offer up some pretty decent health benefits to boot.
1. Cumin: Typically found in Mexican and Indian cuisine, this pungent spice is beneficial in more ways than just boosting flavor. Cumin has been found to strengthen the immune system and improve digestion as well as mental function. Dieters can benefit from cumin’s ability to speed up metabolism and aid in nutrient absorption throughout the body. Add to taco seasonings and curry powders to give your meal a kick.
2. Cayenne Pepper: The health benefits of cayenne pepper are just about endless. This spicy pepper has been used to treat throat and stomach ailments, and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. For those looking to whittle their waistlines, cayenne pepper is an excellent detoxifier and metabolism booster, and studies have proven that spicy foods actually suppress the appetite, causing us to eat less throughout the day. Add some heat to sauces and chili by sprinkling in a little of the powdered pepper.
3. Turmeric: Turmeric, another “super spice,” is a natural painkiller and liver detoxifier. It is also used to speed up wound healing and treat skin conditions, and may help prevent certain types of cancers and Alzheimer’s. This Indian spice is a common fixture in curry, but is also a great addition to marinades and salad dressings.
4. Ginger: Ginger has long been known for its ability to settle the stomach and aid in digestion, but it can also clear up congestion during cold and flu season, and is even thought to be a natural remedy for headaches and menstrual cramps. To reap the benefits of this powerful root, add a little to your tea or into a pitcher of water along with lime slices and fresh mint sprigs for a refreshing and detoxifying summer beverage.
5. Cinnamon: While I don’t recommend taking the “cinnamon challenge,” a scoop of cinnamon is beneficial in many ways. The sweet spice has been proven to lower blood sugar levels, making it ideal for diabetics and pre-diabetics. It is also known to aid in weight loss by increasing blood circulation and kick-starting metabolism. Sprinkle over desserts, puddings, or baked apples for a touch of spicy sweetness.
6. Flaxseeds: While not exactly a spice, flaxseeds made our list due to the number of health benefits they provide. There’s evidence to suggest that the plant food helps prevent heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes, and it’s a great source of fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. Use instead of granola with fruit and yogurt, or mix it into dough or batter.
7. Psyllium: Like flaxseeds, psyllium is not exactly a spice, but a seed husk which provides an excellent source of dietary fiber and also helps manage cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers your risk of heart disease. Ground psyllium husks are preferred over the actual husks as they digest easier. Take in pill form or add a little in with rice or pasta dishes. Just be careful not to overdo it on the portion sizes as the fiber in psyllium will fill you up quickly.
8. Cardamom: This delicate spice is a source of many vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, niacin, vitamin C, and calcium; all essential in promoting good health. Cardamom can be found in both pod and powder form, and make an excellent addition to sweet foods and desserts.
9. Mustard: Believe it or not, this ballpark staple is actually pretty darn good for you! A great source of B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and potassium, mustard contributes to both bone and muscular health. So slather it onto your burgers and dogs, just remember not to overdo it. Mustard is high in sodium, which can increase your risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.
10. Black Pepper: You likely already have this super spice in your kitchen, but you may not know that it provides more than just flavor to your food. Cancer fighter, digestive aid, cough and cold reliever, and metabolism-booster are just a few titles on this common spice’s resume. Use as often and on anything you like! 🙂
While there are many other spices that provide useful benefits to our health, these are our top favorites due to their zesty flavors and ease in cooking. Experiment a little and figure out which are your favorites. Remember, nutritious CAN be delicious!