Chefs understand the magic of cooking with herbs and spices. A dash of ginger, pinch of cayenne or sprig of thyme can make taste buds come alive. But beyond the wonderful tang of herbs and spices, many of these tried-and-true flavours also pack a powerful nutritional punch. Read on to learn how herbs and spices provide the double benefit of taste and health.
Green herbs: from basil to parsley, it’s a good idea to eat the garnish! Green herbs are packed with vitamin K and a host of antioxidants.
Basil: Basil contains lutein and xeazanthin, two antioxidants which can help reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a common eye disease in older adults. In addition, basil has antibacterial properties due to its fragrant volatile oils. Studies show that basil can help curb the growth of bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O:157:H7. In the culinary word, basil is perfect for pesto sauce, pasta, and meat, chicken or fish dishes. Try Steak and Bean Salad.
Oregano: Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients including thymol and rosmarinic acid. They act as antioxidants in the body and can help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. Gram for gram, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples and 4 times more than blueberries. Fresh oregano is a great addition to soups, pizza, omelettes and frittatas.
Parsley: Parsley is a good source of vitamins C and A, which are both antioxidant vitamins that can help decrease the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Plus, chewing a sprig of parsley after dinner is a great way to promote fresh breath. Parsley is a versatile herb that can be used in salads, soup, potatoes, rice, stew and many protein dishes. Try it in Chicken Butternut Squash Bake.
Powerful spices: Whether adding colour, flavour or both, many spices offer medicinal benefits too.
Cayenne: Spicy cayenne pepper adds heat to flavorful dishes. The hotness comes from capsaicin, which has been widely studied for pain-reducing effects, cardiovascular benefits, and its ability to help reduce inflammation. The hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it contains – and cayenne peppers are among the hottest. Cayenne helps drain the mucus membranes lining the nasal passages, which relieves congestion and stuffiness. Cayenne can be added to virtually any dish that needs a bit of heat. Try it in Spicy Meatloaf and Potato Casserole.
Ginger: Ginger is a staple in Japanese and Chinese cuisine. It has the very welcome benefit of being a powerful anti-nausea remedy. Ginger reduces all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweating. Animal studies show that gingerols, the main active components in ginger, may also inhibit the growth of colorectal and ovarian cancer cells. Add ginger to stir-fries or try it in Swedish Meatballs.