The old saying “variety is the spice of life” holds true in every aspect of life, including nutrition. Herbs and spices can serve as a powerful tool to diversify your plate and palate, in addition to lending protective qualities for your health.
Antioxidants, found in a majority of herbs and spices, are special substances that may protect cells from the damage of unstable molecules, known as free-radicals. While some people recognize that antioxidants can be found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, most people are surprised that some herbs and spices are also a rich source of antioxidants – in fact, most herbs and spices contain a greater amount of antioxidants!
It is believed that eating foods rich in antioxidants can provide many benefits that may include preventing chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer, and they can also be prevailing in weight loss and blood sugar control.
Spices and herbs are a great way to add flavor to foods while reducing fat, sugar and salt content – supporting weight loss and many of the associated chronic illnesses found in overweight, obese, or morbidly obese individuals, respectively.
Relatated chronic illnesses for many individuals include, but are not limited to: hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. For instance, removing only one tablespoon of fat per day may result in a loss of 10 pounds per year! Herbs and spices have also been researched for their potential protective roles in their ability to reduce inflammation, most importantly, serving as a means to a reduction in chronic pain.
Frequently used herbs and spices include:
Unfortunately, most don’t know on how to cook with herbs and spices, as the old salt and pepper shakers and butter have become all-too-common as a means for flavoring food. Rest assured, cooking will be much more enjoyable once one has grasped the herb and spice basics.
For additional information on how to cook with herbs and spices, visit with you Primary Care Team Registered Dietitian (PACT RD) for additional resources and one-on-one education!
Renee Wellberg is a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. Renee works in the outpatient primary care clinics and spinal cord injury (SCI) outpatient clinic, in addition to the MOVE! Weight management program. Renee was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and like many has decided to forego ice fishing for palm trees – she enjoys cooking, sporting events and cross-fit.