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Replace Salt With Herbs & Spices

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These ultimate flavor boosters improve not only the taste of your food but your health, too.

Herbs and spices have one clear health benefit:  They beat sale when it comes to adding flavor to our food.  As long as a spice does not beat the word “salt” like garlic or onion salt, herbs and spices can help reduce the amount of sodium we ingest.

But your spice rack has hidden benefits, too.  Many of those jars are packed with antioxidants, and new research shows just how healthy everything from cinnamon to turmeric can keep you.  Cooking with antioxidant-packed herbs and spices is an excellent step in disease prevention.  Here are eight herbs and spices that should be found in every kitchen.

ROSEMARY

By now, you probably know that the process of grilling meat can produce carcinogens.  But what you may not know is that adding rosemary extract to, say, lamb burgers may actually help eliminate some of the toxins, called heterocyclic amines.  the Journal of Food Science reports that rosemary extract can reduce heterocyclic amines by as much as 90%.  SPICE IT UP: Use rosemary extract or fresh rosemary in meat marinades.

CINNAMON

This baking favorite (which comes from the bark of a tree found in China, India, and South-East Asia) may lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes and even improve your memory, too.  A 2010 study led by the US Department of Agriculture found that the spice is associated with lower levels of blood sugar, indicating a potential fighter of prediabetes conditions.  A separate study conducted in 2011 at Tel Aviv University discovered that cinnamon may help inhibit Alzheimer’s disease.  SPICE IT UP:  Add a half-teaspoon to oatmeal, coffee, yogurt and even chili.

TURMERIC

That bright yellow color in Indian curries comes from turmeric, a ginger-related shrub.  But the spice contains more than just golden pigment – as a study published in the British Journal of Cancer shows, turmeric’s curcumin killed cells in cancer of the esophagus.  SPICE IT UP:  Add turmeric to Greek yogurt to serve alongside Thai and Indian dishes.

GINGER

Who hasn’t sipped a glass of ginger ale to help quell an upset stomach?  The bad news:  Most ginger ale you’ll find on grocery store shelves today contains artificial colors along with the added sugar and carbonation.  The good news:  One study found that real ginger really can help soothe the stomach by as much as 38%.  The National Institute of Health reports that taking one gram of ginger an hour before surgery can reduce nausea and vomiting during the first 24 hours after surgery.  The herb can also reduce dizziness, and people with rheumatoid arthritis also take ginger to help decrease joint pains.  Finally, in 2010, scientists at the University of Georgia found that taking two grams per day can help ease exercise-induced muscle pain.  SPICE IT UP:  Start stir-ftry dishes with grated ginger, or add it to homemade jams and jellies. 

WASABI

Here;s another reason to love sushi.  A South Korean study found that wasabi root, which produces the spicy paste served alongside your California rolls and tuna maki, exhibits antibacterial activities against a stomach bacterium called helicobacter pylori.  Another study conducted by Japanese researchers found that the same chemical compound that may fight off bacteria, isothiocyanates, may also help prevent tooth decay.  Researchers suggest eating wasabi two or three  times a week to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.  SPICE IT UP:  Spread wasabi paste on sandwiches – a little goes a long way!

SAGE

Can sage make you …. sage?  As the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAM) reports, two studies reveal that onsuming sage may improve mental perofrmance and memory.  Another study shows sage extract to improve brain performance in those with alzheimer’s disease.  To help reduce the risk of memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease, try taking one gram of sage per day.  SPICE IT UP:  Try sage on grilled or steamed asparagus or in other veggie dishes.

PARSLEY

Parsley goeas far beyond its pretty face.  It contains a compound called apigenin that can help stop the growth and mutliplication of certain types of breast cancer cells, according to a recent University of Missouri-Columbia study.  For a 132-pound woman, taking a three-gram apigenin supplement daily may have similar health benefits, according to the study’s head reaseaaarcher, Salman M. Hyder, PhD – although he notes that more clinical trials are needed since dosage vary from person to person.  Another study also found that parsley’s anti-oxidative properties help it preserve food and fight off pathogens.  SPICE IT UP:  Add parsley to salads, soups, roasted veggies and as a garnish on virtually any dish!

GARLIC

Unless you’re s vampire, you should be stocking up on garlic.  According to the National Cancer Insititute, increased gaarlic intake is associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancers, as garlic’s antibacterial properties may prevent and possibly halt the growth of cancer-causing substances, help repair DNA and reduce cell proliferation.  Evidence also suggests that garlic may slightly lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may slow hardening of the arteries, according to the NCCAM.  To help reduce blood pressure, scientific research shows that taking 600 to 1,200 milligrams of garlic extract daily, or adding one clove of fresh garlic to your meals throughout the day, may help lower your risk of colon, rectal and stomach cancer.  SPICE IT UP:  Try adding chopped raw garlic to salads in the place of high-cal dressing!

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