Herbs & Spices: Add the Flavor, Not the Fat

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spices

Many people believe that fat is what makes food taste good, not necessarily! While fat is required for certain recipes, it is easy to cut back (on fat but not on taste) by using herbs and spices. In addition to flavor, herbs and spices bring some surprising benefits to the equation. Whenever possible choose fresh over dried.

Oregano
  • Contains an antioxidant called quercetin, which may help support our overall health and well being. A recent USDA study concludes that oregano has the strongest antioxidant benefits of all herbs: 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes and 12 times more than oranges. Oregano is also known for its anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric
  • Pungent, bitter herb with a mild aroma and slight scents of orange or ginger.
  • The substance that gives turmeric its yellow color, curcumin is used in many Asian cuisines for it’s rich flavor and to maintain overall health and vitality.  It also supports a healthy immune function when your body needs it. Researchers are just beginning to uncover turmeric’s ability to support many of the bodies functions.
  • Turmeric is sold ground and is a necessary ingredient of curry powder, thus found in many Indian preparations in addition to Southeast Asian cuisine.
Rosemary & Sage
  • Contain carnosol which can be an anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. Studies suggest that carnosol detoxifies substances that can initiate the breast cancer process. There is also research suggesting its prevention for skin and lung cancers.
  • When purchasing rosemary, fresh is superior to dry because it loses its flavor and becomes difficult to chew when dried.
Ginger
  • Ginger is a cousin of turmeric. Contains a compound called gingerol which when dried turns into zingerone. Both  Ginger has been used to support digestive wellness and to support a healthy inflammatory response.
  • Fresh ginger should be plump with smooth skin and can be kept up to one month in the refrigerator. Ginger is also available peeled, pickled, candied, and dried ground.
Cinnamon  
  • Cinnamon contains the compound cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde has antioxidant properties and can help to support a healthy blood sugar.  Some potential benefits of cinnamon are that it acts as a natural sweetener and food preservative and it may aid in supporting our bodies’ natural bacterial function, and may support healthy inflammatory function.

Try these simple tricks to get some more spice in your life:

  1. Add any sweet spices, such as cinnamon, to hot oatmeal, cold fiber cereal or plain yogurt
  2. Use savory herbs and spices, such as rosemary, in place of salt when cooking
  3. Sprinkle any herbs of your choice over your favorite vegetables and roast in the oven on a baking sheet
  4. Add your favorite spices to a store-bought rub to go on grilled chicken or lean beef
  5. Sprinkle some cinnamon straight into your coffee, skim latte or skim cappuccino instead of sugar

Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN

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