Nutritional Benefits of Herbs and Spices
You probably read and hear a lot about the powerful nutritional benefits of many foods, but what about herbs and spices? These often overlooked plants do a lot more for you than flavor your food. If you’ve been curious about how or why to include more herbs and spices into your diet, keep reading!
What are herbs and spices, and what’s the difference between the two?
Herbs and spices are commonly confused since they are used for similar purposes of flavoring your food. While they both offer a variety of health benefits, they do have some distinct differences.
Herbs come from the leaves of plants. Examples include basil, sage, cilantro, and parsley.
Spices can come from every other part of the plant, such as the root, flower, fruit, seed, and bark. They typically have a more potent flavor than herbs. Common examples of spices include cumin, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and nutmeg.
Try this Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetables Dish to see what a difference herbs and spices can make!
Health Benefits of Herbs
Many herbs and spices have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and are definitely something you should include in your diet.
- Antibacterial properties. Many herbs and spices, including oregano, thyme, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin, have antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help fight off disease.
- Anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties that can provide support and relief to inflammatory conditions like arthritis and metabolic syndrome. Other anti-inflammatory herbs and spices include cinnamon, oregano, ginger, garlic, and cloves.
- Support your immune system. Echinacea is an herb that has been shown to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. It is often consumed in a tea or supplement form rather than used in cooking.
- Rich in antioxidants. Many herbs and spices are rich sources of antioxidants. Among the highest are cloves, peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and sage.
- Help treat disease. Thanks to their many health benefits, various herbs and spices have been shown to help treat and reduce the risk of many diseases, including some cancers, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and more.
- Support heart health. Basil, dill, ginger, and fenugreek are just some examples that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels that support a healthy heart
Cooking with Herbs and Spices
Using herbs and spices provides flavor and expands your taste preferences without adding extra calories, salt, sugar, or fat. They can be used in endless ways in the kitchen. You may just need some inspiration and a little imagination! Herbs and spices can be added during the cooking process or used as a garnish to add visual appeal and added flavor to a meal. In addition, many can be used in recipes that require no cooking at all.
While using fresh herbs has an added visual appeal, studies show that dried herbs can contain many health benefits also. Just be sure to use them promptly. Most fresh herbs will keep for about a week or two when stored in the refrigerator, while dried herbs may last around 1-3 years, and ground spices about 2-3 years. It’s important to use herbs and spices within this time frame to maximize their nutritional benefits.
Here are some ideas and delicious recipes for using herbs:
- Seafood dishes, like this baked lemon parsley shrimp, and sheet pan cilantro lime salmon
- Poultry, like these lemon-thyme chicken tenders
- Casseroles, like this unstuffed bell pepper skillet
- Vegetables, like rosemary roasted root vegetables
- Soups, like this healing turmeric chicken soup
- Breakfast foods, like oatmeal pancakes with cinnamon and chocolate chip cookie dough overnight oatmeal
- Breads, like this Ezekiel bread stuffing
Herbs are what make this my Favorite Marinated Tomato recipe!
- Marinades, such as my favorite marinated tomatoes
- Dips and sauces, like pine nut and basil guacamole and
- Salads, like this watermelon, cucumber, and feta salad with fresh mint
- Salad dressings, like this lemon-chive dressing
- Snacks, like these turmeric lemon ginger protein balls
- Salad dressings, like this lemon ginger dressing
- Drinks, like adding fresh herbs to your water
So there you have it!
Which herb or spice are you most excited about including more of into your diet?