Adding flavor to food doesn't have to mean fat and salt. They may make your dishes taste good, but they can negatively impact your heart health and lead to weight gain. Instead, go for fresh herbs and dried spices to bring your cooking to life while adding nutritional value instead of removing it.
Here are the 10 herbs and spices you absolutely need to try:
1. Cilantro -- While genetics does play a role in whether or not the taste and scent of cilantro appeals to you, its health benefits are hard to ignore. Cilantro supples vitamin A and and vitamin K and also supports healthy cholesterol. Use it in salsas or chimichurri sauce.
2. Ginger -- If you suffer from symptoms of indigestion like an upset stomach, ginger can help. This root calms the digestive system and can add a delicious spiciness to your meals. Use it to make Asian dishes like sesame noodles or even add it to your tea to drink after meals.
3. Turmeric -- Inflammation is the body's reaction to injury or strain and can lead to swelling and pain. Turmeric, the bright orange root, helps regulate the body's inflammatory response. It's a staple spice in curry but can also be used to make dressings and marinades.
4. Cinnamon -- If you suffer from diabetes, hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, cinnamon is your go-to spice to keep blood sugar levels stable longer between meals. Cinnamon can add a rich, earthy flavor to roasts or stews and can be used in countless desserts. Just be sure to swap out the refined, granulated sugar for something more natural, like stevia.
5. Oregano -- Oregano has long been used to support the immune system and has antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties. It's used often in Italian and Greek cooking -- use it to make pasta sauce, season roasted potatoes or make your own salad dressing.
6. Basil -- Fresh basil tastes delicious with ripe tomatoes in a salad or added to a whole-grain pasta dish. It also provides antioxidants which fight free radicals that can damage the cells of the body. Preventing this damage may help slow signs of aging.
7. Parsley -- Don't dismiss parsley as a useless garnish. Parsley contains folic acid as well as antioxidant compounds. Add some parsley to your next salad or just make a point to sprinkle it on more of your prepared meals. It has a mild, lemon-like flavor that gives a fresh boost to your dishes.
8. Cayenne Pepper -- The compound within chilies that gives them their heat is called capsaicin. Capsaicin ignites your taste buds and well as your metabolism and can help you burn more calories. Add a pinch of cayenne to soups, chili or pasta sauce for boost of flavor and support for your weight loss efforts.
9. Garlic -- Garlic is an amazing way to add bold flavor, even with only a small amount. Garlic supports healthy cholesterol levels for continued heart health and lowers your risk for heart attack. You can add dried garlic powder easily to prepared foods or use fresh -- just be careful not to brown it too much or it will become bitter.
10. Fennel -- Often taken after meals for digestion, fennel can help prevent symptoms like gas and bloating. It has a strong flavor, similar to black licorice. Use this spice is dishes with a bolder flavor, like curry or stew and say goodbye to after-dinner discomfort.
How to Store Herbs and Spices
All of the above ingredients can be found as fresh herbs, roots or vegetables and in dried form. If you're buying fresh herbs, you want to make them last a long as you can. Rinse them as soon as you get home from the grocery store. After drying them, wrap them in a paper towel and then seal them up in a plastic bag. You can also puree fresh herbs in olive oil and then freeze them in an ice cube tray for fast sauces and dressings.
When it comes to dried spices, keep them in a dry place out of direct light. Make sure the container closes tightly. Dried spices will keep for quite a while and won't really go bad, they just may lose their potency of flavor. Just be mindful of expiration dates -- if you buy them in bulk, make sure to mark the container yourself -- dried spices will typically stay fresh for two to four years.
Don't like the taste? You can get the benefits of these herbs and spices in supplement form. This is also how you can get a much stronger dose. Make sure to check with your doctor first before adding any new supplements to your routine and don't make any changes to your medication schedule.
Shop for spices and more to make healthy meals for your entire family at eVitamins. See you tomorrow!