It’s finally April and this month is all about herbs and spices – how to use them, their health benefits, and great flavors! So what is the difference between herbs and spices? Herbs are actually the leaves of the plant that are used in cooking, while spices are usually dried and come from any other part of the plant – bark, roots, berries, or seeds.
Similar to fruits and vegetables, each herb and spice offers their own nutritional health benefits. Many herbs and spices are great sources of antioxidants. In just ½ teaspoon, herbs and spices provide more antioxidants than ½ cup of blueberries. Check out these herbs and spices that are frequently used in recipes!
- Turmeric contains a naturally occurring compound called curcumin. It helps to reduce inflammation and risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Look for this spice in Indian and Thai cuisines – you’ll notice it by its bright yellow color. Blend this spice into smoothies, soups, and hummus, or mix into grains and vegetables dishes for an extra nutritional boost.
- Cinnamon can play a role in insulin activity and may help lower blood sugar levels. Use this spice to warm up any dish. Add this spice to sweet dishes like cookies, pies, hot chocolate, oatmeal, or granola. Or, kick up the flavor of savory dishes like chili, rubs for meat, or roasted vegetables.
- Garlic can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. To maximize the health benefits and flavor, use fresh garlic! Use in sauces, stir fries, salad dressings, marinades…the cooking options for garlic are endless.
- Oregano is typically used in Mediterranean, Mexican, and Italian dishes. It is rich in the phytochemicals thymol and rosmarinic acid, as well as, vitamin E. In addition to sprinkling on top of pizza, use oregano in pasta sauces, salad dressings, or scrambled eggs.
- Ginger gets its spiciness from the compound capsaicin, which is also found in chili peppers. Ginger has been known to help with gastrointestinal problems like nausea and reduce inflammation. Use this spice in oatmeal, veggie sautés, soups, and of course, ginger bread cookies.
Keep in mind, this list contains just a few of the many herbs and spices with health benefits and great flavors! Some others to keep in your pantry: nutmeg, rosemary, basil, mint, cloves, cardamom, sage, cilantro, cumin, thyme, and much more! Get creative in the kitchen and experiment with different spice mixtures and fresh herbs!