Spice Up Your Diet

Nicole Leote- Staff Writer

Herbs and spices don’t get the attention they deserve. Many people have a drawer full of spices and don’t know how to use them. Herbs and spices can add great flavor to any meal and are nutritious and low-cal. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale receive a great deal of attention, but I want to introduce the smaller greens, like parsley and basil.
Basil can be found in many sauces, added as a garnish, complimenting to hot tea or served raw in a salad. Health benefits of basil include anti-inflammatory properties that can help people with IBS and arthritis. Basil is also high in magnesium, which is an important mineral involved in developing healthy bones and also prevents heart disease and diabetes. Parsley can be found in two forms, including flat leaf and curly leaf. They are both high in antioxidants, which is helpful in fighting auto-immune diseases and allergies. Try adding parsley to a salad, meatloaf or sprinkled on a pasta or chicken dish.
A very common spice that is one of my favorites is ground cinnamon. Cinnamon can help increase blood circulation in the body, which can therefore help boost metabolism and help in weight loss. Cinnamon has also been found to help people with Type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar variations. Add cinnamon to oatmeal, yogurt, coffee or sprinkle on fresh fruit.
A second spice that adds great flavor and health benefits is turmeric. Turmeric is the main spice in curry. It is also used to add a yellow color to many curry powders, mustards, butters and cheeses. The root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine and is used for arthritis, heartburn, stomach pain, headaches, colds and cancer. This spice provides a good source of manganese, iron and vitamin B6. Try adding turmeric on egg salad, chicken casserole, stir-fried veggies or rice.
If you like to add a spice to your dish, try adding dried chili pepper or chili powder. Red chili peppers, such as cayenne, have been shown to reduce cholesterol and cultures that utilize them have a much lower rate of heart attack and stroke. Chili peppers may even help you lose weight because of the heat you feel after you eat them. That heat takes energy and calories to produce. Add dried chili pepper to any dish you’d like to add a kick to, including sautéed vegetables, chili, chicken dishes or even a turkey burger.
Many common dishes contain herbs or spices that those enjoying them may not even realize. When we order a pasta dish at a restaurant, herbs are usually added at the end to add color and flavor, but unfortunately the eater will normally pick the herb out because it looks unfamiliar. Foods like guacamole, tomato sauces and pizza rely on herbs to achieve the best flavor. Relatively small amounts of dried or fresh herbs and spices may have health benefits and add a low-calorie flavor. Try adding herbs or spice to your next meal and you may decrease the amount of salt, fat and sugar you intake without sacrificing flavor. For a spicy addition, try chili peppers, for a sweet addition try cinnamon, and for a kick in your hot tea try basil or thyme.

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