Spice Up Your Health

By Ron Lund

Spices and Herbs make a difference in making food taste delicious and healthy. This American Diabetes Month, Central Florida Health Care Registered Dietician Nutritionist Ron Lund reminds his patients that spices, and herbs have many benefits. They come from plants and are used either fresh or dried and then added to foods & recipes. Lund says, “These herbs and spices add subtle to intense flavors and heat, creating fantastic food and recipe taste diversity.”

Spices come from plant parts, including roots, stems, leaves, bark, cinnamon sticks, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Herbs typically are derived from non-woody plants such as mint or tarragon. Both spices and herbs are excellent replacements for salt or salt-based seasonings.

Lund says, “Spices and herbs have excellent health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties from the plant phytonutrients.” Examples of phytonutrients you might have heard of are resveratrol, curcumin, lycopene, and carotenoids. There is a history of herbs and spices. They have been used for thousands of years in several fashions. Besides adding flavor to foods & recipes, they helped preserve foods, and black pepper even represented currency for salaries.

More common herbs and spices are basil, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric.

Basil is full flavor and sweet and has several health benefits, such as protecting chromosomes from free radicals that can damage cells and lead to illness.

Cinnamon is sweet in flavor, and one of its health benefits is it may reduce A1C in those with type 2 diabetes.

Garlic is a spice close to our hearts in that it lowers cholesterol, triglycerides & blood pressure and adds a powerful & intense flavor to foods. Garlic may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Ginger is next on the list of common herbs and has a combination taste of sweet, spicy, and savory. A very common effect ginger has is that it helps reduce nausea, especially in those receiving chemotherapy treatment. Ginger has many culinary options, such as adding to tea, smoothies, rice recipes, sauces, and more.

Rosemary is a spice commonly used in Mediterranean recipes such as tomato sauces & for dipping oil sauces as the spice is native to the Mediterranean region. Rosemary taste is described as a blend of peppery, sage, mint evergreen, and pine. When inhaled, it is associated with anti-inflammatory properties; it may lower cortisol levels and improve memory.

The last of the more common spices and herbs is turmeric. Commonly known as an Indian spice, it contains potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can counter cancer development. Turmeric is often used in various recipes such as vegetables, rice, meat, sauces, or dressings and adds flavor described as bitter & peppery. Please see the reference links for more information on herbs and spices.