Most of us know adding salt or creamy sauces to our food isn’t the healthiest habit, but let’s get real – it sure does make it taste better.
Fortunately, there are tons of other nutritious choices to make meat, veggies, or whatever is on tonight’s menu taste just as delicious.
Those choices are spices; from peas and carrots to chicken and beef, spices add a kick to basically any food without adding all the extra calories. Spices most often come from seeds, berries, bark or roots of plants.1
Here are 7 healthy spices to enjoy:2
Cumin comes from India. The seeds, yellow in color, have a strong pleasant odor and taste. A recommended amount is 6 teaspoons or ½ teaspoon of cumin powder a day. One great way to use cumin is to mix a bowl of root veggies, like sweet potatoes, cauliflower and turnips with olive oil and 1 teaspoon cumin powder, bake at 300 degree for a half hour. Add some pepper and chopped cilantro to make it extra tasty.
Ginger, or ginger root, comes from the plant Zingiberofficinale, and is in the same family as cardamom and turmeric. Its cultivation started in South Asia. Ginger comes fresh or powdered. While the latter is a bit easier to work with, there are many ways to use fresh ginger.
To use fresh ginger, you must first peel off the dark outer layer with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife. Then you’ll usually need to grate it before adding to recipes. You’ll likely find it works best when mixed with wet ingredients. It should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic or paper bag. Try ginger in a soup by simmering butternut squash, carrots, and garlic in chicken broth. Add fresh ginger and pepper, then puree, and enjoy. Or, mix ginger, low-sodium soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and garlic for a beef marinade.
Cinnamon comes from the dried bark of Cinnamomumloureirii and is abundant in flavor. Use it to replace sugar in sauces, meat, and vegetable dishes. It can specifically work in homemade barbecue sauces, pulled pork marinade and marinara sauces. Sneaking cinnamon into breakfast, lunch, and dinner is easy. Stir cinnamon into oatmeal with berries and nuts, put it in vinaigrette salad dressing and mix it into coffee or smoothies. Be sure to use it sparingly, though, up to one teaspoon in a serving.
Cardamom is from the dried fruit or seed of Elettariacardamomum L. Maton. Guatemala and India produce the most cardamom. It contains potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium. You can find both cardamom pods & powders in markets and grocery stores year-round. While cardamom is most commonly used in sweets and coffee, black cardamom can be used in lentil curries and rice pilafs.For brown rice, add ½ teaspoon cardamom (and ½ teaspoon cinnamon) to the boiling water for a nutty flavor to get a huge kick of flavor and very few calories.
5. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers come from the chili plant, which originated in Central America, and chili peppers have plant-derived compounds known to contain disease preventing and health promoting characteristics. They are available all year in grocery stores, either dried or in powdered form. Use hot chili peppers as a condiment while preparing soups and chili sauces. Poblano peppers are the mildest of the chili pepper family, and can be sautéed, roasted, and stuffed. You can mix Serrano peppers in with homemade salsas and guacamole.
Turmeric is from the dried root of the perennial herb Curcumma longa L, and comes from India. Ayellow spice, it’s popularly used in Middle Eastern cuisine.Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, and can help possibly both speed up the metabolism and boost the immune system. Add a pinch or two of turmeric to grilled foods and veggies, or a couple of teaspoons to soups and stews.
Caraway seeds are grown all over Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. While it has several medicinal uses, caraway consists of healthy nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. It is a superb mineral source of iron, calcium and potassium. Caraway is dense in dietary fiber, with 30 g of fiber per 100 g seeds. Plus, it contains compounds helping to prevent aging, infections and even cancers. Add Caraway to omelets, soups, salads or Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Caraway also aids in digestion when eaten with cabbage.
Take your pick. There are hundreds of different types of spices for you to choose from, and they are smart additions to everyday meals without harming health or sacrificing taste.
- Available at: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/spices-and-herbs-health-benefits. Accessed April 13, 2013. ↩
- Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074468.htm. Accessed April 13, 2013. ↩
I am from South India, for us all these spices are part of our life. My mother grows many of them, except a few like Cardamom which can be grown only at a particular height above sea level.
I can just give two tips. Of all these, turmeric is an amazing medicine. Make a paste of it, with water or honey or curd and you can apply a facial mask – very good for skin and acne.
Turmeric is a great medicine against many insect bites and skin rashes. make a paste of it and apply on the point of bite or rash. It gives incredible results. Just that it has to be good turmeric / powder.
And ginger – of course is another gem. a peice of ginger with milk can arrest gas right away. Dry the ginger for few days. and make a black coffee (not the strong coffee like in west. just make coffee, like you would make tea, boil dry ginger in the coffee)with it and have it, if you have a flue or cold. In our childhood, we never had any medicine for fever other than these ginger coffee
And if you have nutmeg, make a paste of it with honey / curd, and this can arrest many stomach problems (loose motion)
Hi Rajesh! Thanks for sharing your traditions. I love hearing suggestions from someone who grew up with these spices in their daily life. I plan to go to India in the hopefully near future!
Excellent. Dont forget to visit Kerala, the land of spices, which attracted all ancient civilizations to India. I am working and living in Kerala, so if you need any assistance, let me know please.
All the best.
Nice article! I use most of these on a daily basis. Ginger in my teapot while brewing green tea adds a kick. By the way ginger peels really easily by scraping it with a spoon.
Thank you for reading and thank you for your ginger tip. I’m sure you know that green tea you’re drinking is giving you an instant metabolism boost, on top of all of its other benefits!
My family is from Pakistan and my mom used to cook with these spices when I was a kid. As a kid and teenager I wanted to eat pizza, spaghetti and casarole like all of my friends. Not to mention how we used to be afraid of smelling like cardamom, garlic, and chili pepper.
Funny how things change. Now I’m obsessed with eating these spices because I know how good they are.
haha all indian spices
of course indian food is the best
west will only copy
Thank you for this article Caroline.For those who juice raw vegetables and fruits, ginger has been known to remove heavy metals from our blood. This is particularly useful considering the high mercury contents in most fish. Adding a small amount of fresh ginger to your juice streamlines the nutrients into your bloodstream and allows it to work quickly and efficiently. It also tastes fantastic.
Also, thank you Rajesh. I’m going to keep a lot more turmeric on hand from now on ?
If my mother could write English, she would have suggested a 100 things to do with all these spices.
A bit of ginger, lime and honey – into water and keep in your refrigerator – The Best Drink.
In our cooking, ginger is part and parcel for most dishes, and of course fish. I can see that , it is not just taste. Thanks Aaron, good info.
Yes, I have vague memories of my grand mother giving us a kind of turmeric water to drink. Since I dont remember well, I am not mentioning it here, exactly how, when for etc.. sorry
I am sure Turmeric has a 100 + use in home.
Nice article. I am also an Indian and love all these spices. Cinnamon can even help burn fat. I love cardamom flavour as well
This is a great article. I really enjoyed about how to pair it with certain foods. Wouldn’t mind even more recommendations on how to incorporate these into daily eating!
@Matt – That’s a really awesome point. We’ve posted about 7 healthy spices, now this article on their health benefits, and I think a 3rd about how to use spices in cooking and what foods to use them with would tie everything together. Will consider it for article assignments this coming month!