We love a brilliant meal. A little spirulina, a spoonful of seeds, a little ACV – it all counts. At CS, we’re known for including everyday superfoods in our favorite meals and snacks. As much as possible. After all, what’s the secret to getting the most out of your nutritional intake? Plus — no subtraction. In the spirit of elevating your breakfasts, lunches and dinners, look no further than healthy herbs and spices. They are the ultimate health booster. And they’re not just a wellness trend. For centuries, people around the world have used the healing powers of herbs and spices to nourish the body from the inside out. Here’s the science behind why you should eat more herbs and spices, along with tips to help you stay full.
Featured image of Maite Aizpurua.
Herbs vs Spices — Spot the Difference
Often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. The alpine tree is the green leaf part of the tree. While most come from non-woody plants, there are a few exceptions. Like, bay leaf. Interestingly, basil, rosemary, and parsley are referred to as spices, but they really qualify as herbs. Spices, on the other hand, come from the bark, roots, or other parts of tropical plants (and trees). They are usually consumed in dried or ground form. A few examples include cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and star anise. In general, herbs and spices are widely distributed. They can also be grown in your backyard!
5 science-backed health benefits of herbs and spices
Salty or aromatic, healthy herbs and spices do it all: they flavor and garnish foods, are used for medicinal purposes, and provide fragrance. They are in everything from skin care and beauty, to household and cleaning products. Their benefit is a penny a dozen. Healthy herbs and spices are an easy and convenient way to add nutrients to your dishes. Many herbs and spices contain many health benefits, including powerful antioxidants. Here are five reasons to add healthy herbs and spices to your repertoire.
Balance blood sugar
As mentioned, cooking with herbs and spices is a delicious (and functional) way to make food more flavorful and satisfying. Speaking of satisfaction, one of the ways to keep your blood sugar balanced is to eat foods that keep you full. Think — avocados, eggs, and fiber-rich carbs. For a healthy boost, combine spices and herbs like cinnamon and turmeric. Studies show that these substances help balance blood sugar levels.
Many herbs and spices have been shown to fight cravings while also supporting fat burning. In essence, simply diversifying your spice cabinet can help with weight loss. The reason is that some spices and herbs have a cooling effect. This increases your metabolism. When these herbs are used in combination with diet and exercise, you can manage your weight. These are our favorite herbs and spices to boost metabolism!
In place of refined table salt, reach for a variety of healthy herbs and spices. They can help reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, two new studies show that herbs and spices may promote better heart health. What’s more, one study found that adding herbs and spices can help lower blood pressure. Spices like black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, cumin, basil, ginger, coriander, and onion are powerful and effective.
Many herbs and spices are known to reduce harmful inflammation in the body. And inflammation is considered a precursor to many chronic diseases — including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of consuming anti-inflammatory foods, choose anti-inflammatory spices and herbs. Turmeric is a particularly potent anti-inflammatory spice, along with ground ginger. Furthermore, herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are key to overall health. The healthiest herbs and spices with the most antioxidants include oregano, sage, mint, perilla, cloves, and cinnamon.
Delicious blend of herbs and spices
In addition to a pinch of salt and pepper, consider these tried-and-true combinations. They can feel intimidating, but they’re completely approachable (even for new cooks!).
For warmth and sweetness: cinnamon and nutmeg.
Swap the sugar in your oatmeal for this mixture. Start with equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg. Adjust to your liking. The cinnamon baked sweet potato is also delicious.
For a delicious Asian-inspired concoction: ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
When making stir-fries, skip the high-sodium soy sauce and choose equal parts ginger, garlic, and red pepper. A little coconut aminos goes a long way too!
For a savory Indian dish: curry, cumin and mustard seeds.
Making curry? Give your dishes an Indian flair with these warming spices. If you haven’t tried our Indian Avocado Cauliflower yet, here’s a gentle boost for you.
For classic Italian flavors: basil, oregano and parsley.
For a classic Italian twist, choose basil and oregano. Use equal parts for marinara sauce.
For a Tex-Mex dish with one dish: paprika, cumin and paprika.
Taco seasoning is so easy to make! Choose a homemade Tex-Mex flavor with chili powder, cumin, and paprika. These pancakes are absolutely delicious.
12 Healthiest Herbs and Spices
Give your meal — and taste buds — a hit. These healthy herbs and spices will quickly become staples. We’ve also included our favorite recipes to get you started!
When you think of cocoa, you probably think of your favorite chocolate dessert, right? But cocoa is actually a spice with many health benefits. Cocoa beans are full of flavonoids (antioxidants), which have been shown to promote heart health and the immune system. Flavonoids also seem to play a role in lowering cholesterol.
Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake
While the majority of echinacea’s healing properties are anecdotal, the herb is best known for targeting the immune system and helping to prevent colds. While research has yet to prove that this herb can fight viruses, many people use echinacea to aid in the treatment of cold-like conditions.
Recipe: Homemade Echinacea from Jillian Harris
Cinnamon works in many ways to boost your health. Especially your metabolism. First and foremost, the body uses more energy to process cinnamon than other foods. Research also shows that cinnamon has insulin-like effects in the body, improving the body’s metabolism and balance blood sugar. Due to its high fiber content, cinnamon can help reduce cravings by promoting feelings of fullness and satiety.
Recipe: Cinnamon roll spiced with orange date
This spicy, sweet spice is especially rich in minerals like magnesium and zinc. It’s also a must-have in pumpkin spice mixes! It is known to soothe an upset stomach, and laboratory studies show it may also help fight inflammation.
Recipe: Seedless cardamom cookies from selected chia seeds
For thousands of years, ginger has been used as a remedy for nausea and gastrointestinal problems. Closely related to turmeric, ginger also contains anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, only pomegranates and certain berries contain more! As an anti-nausea, it’s common for seasickness, motion sickness, and morning sickness. Last but not least, several studies have also demonstrated that ginger may have anti-cancer effects. This is largely due to ginger’s high antioxidant content.
Recipe: Tropical pineapple ginger smoothie
With potent compounds and other nutrients, garlic has numerous health benefits. Garlic is widely associated with a number of diseases related to the blood system and heart – for example coronary heart disease and hypertension. Garlic is also used in preventing certain types of cancer. Although it is technically a vegetable, garlic is commonly eaten like other herbs and spices.
Recipe: Vegetables roasted garlic herbs from roasted roots
No surprises here. And the data proves it: In a review of 21 studies, turmeric was associated with weight loss, BMI, and waist circumference. Most of turmeric’s health properties can be attributed to curcumin, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Remember that a little turmeric goes a long way — it has a distinctly earthy flavor. Also, it’s best to combine turmeric with black pepper, as compounds in pepper help your body absorb curcumin.
Recipe: Turmeric Chicken Immune Soup
Rosemary is earthy and aromatic, known to improve brain function and mood, promote hair growth, and more. As a member of the mint family, rosemary is prized for its taste and aroma. Studies show that its woody aroma improves focus and can improve mood. Recent studies show that rosemary, even in small amounts common in cooking, can help prevent cognitive decline.
Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Garlic, Rosemary and Thyme from Paleo Running Mama
Mint is a combination of two types of mint: water mint and spearmint. Unmistakable taste and smell! Mint, like ginger, is known to ease nausea and digestion. In fact, studies show that coated peppermint oil capsules can ease the side effects of IBS. It also aids in headache relief and kills oral germs. If you like mint tea, this is our favorite.
Recipe: Easy Mint Tea from A Couple Cooks
Small but powerful, oregano leaves boast many nutrients, including vitamins K and E, calcium, iron, and fiber. It is also rich in antioxidants — a teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves has as much antioxidant activity as a medium apple! Furthermore, studies show that oregano leaves contain compounds that fight diabetes. As a versatile herb, you’ll likely find oregano leaves in both Italian and Mexican cuisines.
Recipe: Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Oregano and Garlicky Bread from Nourish and Fete
Native to the Mediterranean region, parsley is used as a culinary flavoring and to treat ailments – including high blood pressure and allergies. Like others, this herb is full of antioxidants, carotenoids, and other beneficial vitamins. Parsley supports a healthy body and immune system! It also includes an essential nutrient for bone health.
Recipe: Cauliflower Tabbouleh
Piperine – a natural compound that gives pepper the bounce – has several notable compounds. In particular, it may reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast, lung, prostate, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers. Black pepper has been considered the “king of all spices”, thanks to its wide usage and healing properties.