Do you really think about what is in your food? Even for the health conscious or nutrition curious, many people overlook and underestimate what goes into a recipe. I only recently really got into cooking. Prior to that, I would cook whatever was easy or cheapest. I would buy some random mixture of McCormick’s Perfect Pinch at the store and throw it on pretty much everything: chicken, salmon, cod, ground meet, soup, salads etc. I would look up a recipe and marinate meats in whatever that particular recipe called for. I never really knew, though, how all the spices I was using affected my body and health. I used to think a lot of spices and seasonings were “bad for you,” because many have a lot of sodium. I basically compared salt to every seasoning or herbal spice that was out there, assuming I shouldn’t use them often in my cooking.
Well, I was certainly wrong! Over the last couple years, I have tried to understand better what foods, herbs, spices and beverages are truly best for our health. Something may be “low sodium” or “low fat” and have terrible consequences long term on our bodies, compared to just eating the extra sodium or fat in moderation. Most recently, I have started looking into the different health benefits of cooking spices, in particular. And let me tell you, it is pretty amazing what many of them do for our body and our long-term health. I could probably list 25, but for the sake of not making this blog post a novel – I am going to keep it basic and tell you about 4 spices to strongly consider adding to your diet.
1 – CUMIN
Cumin contains antioxidants and anticancer properties. It has been shown to fight many bacteria and parasites, as well as help treat some intestinal issues such as IBS and diarrhea. Some studies on cumin suggest that the aroma of the spice alone activates salvation. We know that salvation starts the digestive process. This means, as we go from smelling the spice to consuming it, the digestive process has already started. This helps ensure that whatever food is consumed with the cumin will be more fully digested. If you struggle with digestive issues and cannot quite figure it out, maybe try adding in more recipes that have cumin in them. The spice also provides iron, helps control blood sugar, can aid in weight loss and is an anti-inflammatory.
Here are some plant-based recipes with cumin to try!
For athletes needing some extra protein, add or swap. For example, the tacos can easily be made with shredded chicken or beef rather than the plant-based substitute.
Of these, I have tried #2, #5, #6 and #8. All keepers! Especially if you enjoy Indian and/or Thai cuisine.
2 – GARLIC
This one may be my favorite. I am absolutely one of those people who LOVE walking into an Italian restaurant and smelling strong garlic. I love the taste of it and incorporating it into my food. Think of recipes where you may use onion, chives or scallions and you can probably easily add some garlic or even swap it. They are closely related and often pair well together. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its taste and health benefits. According to Med News today, it was used in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece as a health remedy. The article states that famous ancient physician Hippocrates used it to treat respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion and fatigue. There is even historical documentation that Olympic athletes of that time period used it as what they thought to be an enhancing substance to help them perform better. In present day, we cannot prove all these theories of ancient time; however, there are plenty of studies that show garlic has many proven health benefits in the modern world. Garlic can help with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It can also prevent many heart issues such as hypertension, heart disease, heart attack and high cholesterol. Additionally, garlic has been linked to reducing breast, brain, heart, stomach, colon, prostate and lunch cancer risks. Some good reasons to add garlic to your recipe choices.
Recipe Recommendation: 20-minute Honey Garlic Shrimp (may use grilled chicken or tofu, as well)
3 – CHILI POWDER
Next up, (this one is not for everyone) chili powder. As someone who loves spicy food, I really enjoy cooking a meal with some heat to it. For a while I avoided chili powder because I read somewhere it was super high in sodium and not the best for you. This can be true, which is why it is important to avoid the chili powders in the pouch you may see at the grocery store. I recommend getting your chili powder from a fresh market or herbal/spice store. I enjoy Penzeys, which I newly discovered when I was gifted a set of their spices .They offer regular, medium hot and hot options depending on your taste buds. With that, there are several health benefits of chili powder. The iron in chili powder increases blood flow and reduces inflammation. It helps with digestion and pain management, as well. Capsaicin, found in chilis, is said to suppress appetite and to be a metabolism booster, meaning that it can aid in weight loss. This is not a good spice to incorporate into your diet if you have IBS or other intestinal or digestive issues, for it can really irritate your system.
Recipe Recommendation: Healthy Turkey Chili
This is a good one for watching some football this fall. Again, I recommend using a more organic brand of spice than what is listed in the recipe. This recipe includes our garlic too!
4 – CINNAMON
It wouldn’t be right, if I didn’t include cinnamon into an October blog post! Cinnamon is a versatile spice that can be used in several marinades, beverages, sweet treats and meals. It lowers blood sugar which can help prevent diabetes. Cinnamon also has antioxidants that have been proven to reduce inflammation (a common theme among most spices) and lower cholesterol. It has anti-viral, fungal and bacterial properties that help prevent different viruses and bugs. As the winter months and flu season come around, this is a good one to add to help stay healthy. Definitely add this to your list!
Almond butter and banana cinnamon toast.
Very EASY to make. Perfect for a pre or post practice bite, or for the common person on the go.
1 -2 Slices whole wheat/multigrain bread (or bread/base of choice)
1 TBSP Almond butter – the more natural the better
1 Small banana sliced
? Sprinkled cinnamon (to your preference)
* Add a little honey to sweeten your toast
I hope you learned some new and helpful info on spices we incorporate into our food. They can be very beneficial to our health and prevent many cancers and illnesses. They are super easy to incorporate in your everyday diet and they add some great taste too.
Here are a few books that have more information about these spices, as well as others.
- Science of Spice, by Dr. Stuart Farrimond
- Mastering Spice, by Lior Lev Sercarz and Geneviève Ko
- On Spice, by Caitlin Penzey Moog
I am not a Doctor, nor have the education to give any sort of medical or nutritional advice. This blog was written paraphrasing many books and articles I have read over the years on food. All which I personally find to be reputable.