I'm still haunted by childhood memories of steamed green beans and spinach, left untouched until they were cold on my plate. Sometimes, the forgotten vegetables would reappear the following morning for breakfast, my parents reminding me how good they were for me, but I couldn't do it.
I became pretty much anti-vegetable until college when I began trying more vegetarian dishes from other cultures and realized I needed a bit more pizzazz on my plate to get me to eat the rainbow. If you're trying your hardest to eat new foods, or need new ways to season some old favorites to make them more healthy, there are a plethora of spices and seasonings that can make all the difference.
Here are 10 delicious ways to add flavor to your food without adding tons of calories or unhealthy, processed fare but instead adding actual nutritional value and some pretty great perks for your health:
1. Pink Himalayan Salt -- Harvested from sea beds in the Himalayan Mountains that were covered by lava as far back as 200 million years, this incredibly pure, pink and flavorful sea salt has 84 different trace minerals. This salt balances your pH levels and can help open your airways. Bonus: You can even make a body scrub or dissolve it into bath water to treat skin conditions like psoriasis or even eczema.
2. Turmeric -- This bright yellow root is an incredible anti-inflammatory that can help anyone dealing with chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is rich in antioxidants, like curcumin, which can help improve digestion, stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis. Consuming turmeric regularly also supports the heart and early research suggests it may have some anti-cancer properties, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
3. Ginger -- Another root, ginger is your answer for adding a gentle heat (you can certainly kick up the intensity) to your dishes while supporting proper digestion. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) works well in dressings and marinades and can be especially helpful to anyone dealing with nausea, such as pregnant women or those undergoing chemotherapy.
4. Citrus Juice -- Citrus fruits like lemons and limes add bright, fresh flavor to your foods and make a great finishing touch. Try using lemon juice on your salad to cut down on the amount of oil or packaged dressing you use. Citrus juices are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that support a healthy immune system and fight off free radicals.
5. Cayenne -- Don't fear the heat. Cayenne pepper not only adds intensity to your food, it's also a natural way to reduce pain, increase energy and treat inflammatory conditions, like psoriasis. The best part? It can help you lose weight! Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin that helps ignite your metabolism.
6. Dried Seaweed -- Whether sprinkled on soup or cooked veggies or used to season meat before cooking, seaweed adds that salty punch you may be after, plus all the benefits of green foods. Dulse and nori are the two types of seaweed most commonly used for seasoning food. Looking for a way to use it? Buy the sheets in the store and pulse them in a food processor or coffee bean grinder to make a fine powder.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar -- A little tartness, or acidity, is needed to balance any dish. Thankfully, apple cider vinegar can do the job while adding some serious health benefits. Apple cider vinegar can be used in marinades, dressings and sauces and can help relieve pain, fight infection and also help you lose weight. Apple cider vinegar is another great way to kick up your metabolism and burn fat.
8. Nutritional Yeast -- If you're a cheese lover, this one is for you. Brewer's yeast, or nutritional yeast, is sold as little dry yellow flakes that taste similar to cheese. A lot of people recommend putting it on popcorn, but it's also good on soup for a little cheesiness or on pizza, so you use less actual cheese. This yeast is packed with B vitamins, which support energy production.
9. Gomasio -- Made from toasted, unhulled sesame seeds, this traditional Japanese seasoning can help you cut down on salt as well. Most gomasio's are made with a small amount of salt in combination with the seeds, so you're using significantly less, which is good for the blood pressure. Sprinkle it on a baked potato, some tofu or even seafood.
10. Garlic -- The next time you have garlic breath, think of all the good you're doing for your heart by stinking up the room. Garlic supports healthy circulation and cholesterol levels, which can help reduce your risk for a heart attack, stroke or heart disease. Put garlic in sauces, soups, marinades and anything else you can think of.
This list could go on and on. Food is medicine and should be enjoyed for all it can do for your health. Shop for an array of healthy seasonings and spices at eVitamins and get cooking!