It’s time to turn your spice rack into a medicine cabinet. Herbs and spices hold much higher antioxidant values than foods and they can add incredible taste especially when used correctly with the right dishes. Personal chef and registered dietician Diane Hendricks shares her top picks.
Red Pepper or Cayenne – Great for adding heat and color to just about any dish, cayenne pepper or red pepper (different peppers but same family) taste great on everything. Try them on sauteed veggies or give your hot chocolate a Mexican makeover by adding a dash of either. Use them sparingly though because they are HOT.
Cinnamon — This baking staple can be used in everything from cinnamon toast, tea, sprinkled on top of hot cereal and much, much more. For a meal with Middle Eastern flair, try sautÃ©ing lamb with eggplant, raisins and cinnamon sticks.
Ginger – When it comes to quelling the queasiness of motion sickness, ginger has no equal say herbalists. In fact, researchers have demonstrated that ginger beats dimenhydrate, the main ingredient in motion sickness drugs such as Dramamine, for controlling symptoms of seasickness and motion sickness. Ginger stimulates saliva flow and digestive activity, settles the stomach, relieves vomiting, eases pain from gas and diarrhea, and is effective as an anti-nausea remedy. This aromatic herb also helps lower cholesterol. Herbalists have also found it to be useful as a pain reliever.
Basil — Now here’s an herbal carminative, that is, it can relieve gas and soothe stomach upsets. One possible explanation for its calming effect is a compound called eugenol, which has been shown to help ease muscle spasms. Research is still preliminary, but laboratory studies also suggest that compounds found in basil may help disrupt the dangerous chain of events that can lead to the development of cancer.
Black Pepper – One of the reasons black pepper is effective for weight loss, is due to its ability to increase the metabolic rate. This means that the body burns calories faster, which results in weight loss. There is only 1 calorie in a 1/4 teaspoon of Black Pepper with 11% fat, 81% carbs and 8% protein.
Rosemary — While traditionally associated with Mediterranean food, this woody spice can also be used in barbecuing.
Oregano — An indispensible spice in Turkish, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Latin American and Italian cuisine, oregano is the must-have ingredient in tomato sauces and pairs well with capers and olives. Oregano contains at least four compounds that soothe coughs and 19 chemicals with antibacterial action that may help reduce body odor. The ingredients in oregano that soothe coughs may also help un-knot muscles in the digestive tract, making oregano a digestive aid. This familiar spice also contains compounds that can lower blood pressure too.
Cumin — An aromatic spice with a unique, bitter flavor, cumin goes best with beans, chicken, couscous, curry, fish, lentils, peas, pork, potatoes, soups and stews.
Garlic– While technically not a spice, always keep fresh garlic on hand to liven up just about any dish you make. Rub it on baked bread, sautÃ© it with vegetables, add some to your pizza, use it to create a variety of sauces and aiolis.