It’s true: A little spice is nice. Adding spice to your meals will do more than enhance the flavor—it may support your health, too. Spices are loaded with antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients that are vital to our well-being.
We take for granted the vast stock of spices that line our grocery store aisles, but early explorers traveled the world—and even went to war—for spices. Spices are plant products that can originate from seeds, bark, roots, flowers, leaves, resins, and sap. Many have rare and exotic origins. These distinct and exotic flavors add a world of taste and healing properties to our diet.
Many of us resort to the same simple litany of spices—salt, pepper, basil, and oregano—but there are countless spices that have something to offer both our palate and our health.
Anise seed: Anise seed has a distinctive sweet-spicy licorice flavor. It is often used in tea, breads, and sweets. Anise seed is often helpful in relieving an upset stomach or a runny nose. Some people chew on anise seeds to freshen the breath.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a pungent, sweet, delicious spice that has become commonplace in desserts and drinks. It is considered spicy, warming, and aromatic and is known to promote digestion and circulation. More recently, cinnamon has gained notoriety because it has been found to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. In fact, diabetics might benefit from incorporating cinnamon into their diet.
Cayenne: Cayenne is hot and spicy. It’s a member of the chili pepper family and contains a compound called capsaicin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Cayenne can boost the metabolism, stimulate the immune system and relieve congestion. Use it in spicy foods such as sauces, soups, and chili. If you’re suffering from a cold, add an extra dose of cayenne to your tea or soup for sinus relief.
Cardamom: Cardamom is an aromatic, exotic spice from the Far East. It is often used in teas, liquors, and sweet dishes—you might recognize its flavor in chai tea. It can help soothe an upset stomach, promote sleep, and even clear the lungs.
Ginger: Ginger is a pungent root that is used in Asian dishes, soups, sauces, baked goods, and even teas. It stimulates digestion and also relieves nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness. It can also relieve symptoms of cold and flu.
Turmeric: Turmeric is a deep yellow spice commonly used in Indian curries. It is a unique flavor—its taste has been described as pungent, bitter, or bittersweet. Turmeric has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed to have anti-cancer properties and also is helpful with depression and arthritis.
Spice up your diet and your health by incorporating flavorful spices into your meals. Your taste buds and your health will thank you.