It's a new year and that means focusing on your health after a long holiday season of indulgence. Whether that means a detox, a juice cleanse, or just getting back to eating well, the health benefits of spices and herbs will help speed things along!
Not only will they make your food taste delicious, they’ll provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, inflammation-fighting capabilities, antibacterial and antiviral properties, and metabolism enhancers.
There’s a reason that ancient civilizations used herbs and spices as disease-fighting medicines. It’s because they have tons of healthy compounds and phytochemicals (those healthy chemicals found in plants) to reduce damage to your cells and prevent illness. Spices and herbs are like tiny, concentrated, nutrient-rich vegetables. Many pharmaceuticals are even modeled after their healing properties.
Another bonus? Because they’re so vibrant and flavoursome, when you cook with herbs and spices, you’re able to use fewer unhealthy ingredients like fat, salt, and sugar. They contain almost zero calories and they’re totally vegan.
Choose quality not quantity with fresh, small-batch spices and herbs from Zest & Zing.
Let’s start with a big one. Cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice. It contains iron, calcium, and manganese, and it’s been proven to reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and defeat free radicals in your body. Scientists are even hopeful that it might protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s which affect your brain or nervous systems. Some studies show that cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and reduces the risks of diabetes and heart disease. It may even increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin to aid in fat burning. The health benefits of this spice are undeniable!
How to incorporate it into your diet? We’re all used to cinnamon in unhealthy things like cookies, cakes, and desserts, but you can use it in healthy (and savoury) dishes too. Sprinkle it on apples or sweet potatoes before baking them, add a dash to your chili con carne, season homemade granola bars with it, or mix it into a curry, black bean dish, or a pot of vegan spiced lentils. Sprinkle it onto your yogurt, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal in the mornings, or stir it into your coffee, tea, or milk. It’s also delicious added to peanut butter and protein shakes!
Popular in those fall blends like pumpkin spice and chai, Cardamom fights inflammation, lowers blood pressure, helps with circulation, and prevents the growth of cancer cells. It will also soothe your upset stomach, and it’s a good source of fiber (which aids in weight control). Cardamom is high in magnesium, zinc, iron, and manganese, which can help with cellular metabolism and bone health. It’s great for your detox diet because it’s been used as a medicine to remove toxins from the body.
How to incorporate it into your diet? Add it to your tea or coffee to give it that chai flavour, use it in curries and other rice dishes, or mix it into a rub to flavour meats along with salt and pepper. Roast your carrots with cardamom and butter (or use olive oil to keep it vegan). Or try it in this Aromatic Shrimp and Noodle Medicine Soup.
Nutmeg is a great holiday spice, but it’s also good for your breath and your brain. It has antibacterial compounds that can help fight plaque, cavities, and bad breath. It also stimulates the mind, eliminating stress and fatigue and boosting concentration. Full of antioxidants, nutmeg fights inflammation, and it can also help with digestion issues like bloating, diarrhea, and gas. The Chinese used nutmeg for aching muscles and joints as well as abdominal pain. If you’re trying to detox, many recommend nutmeg to help clean your kidneys and liver and remove toxins.
How to incorporate it into your diet? Nutmeg is said to be a sedative, so add it to your milk before bed to relax. But it’s also delicious in your coffee, so you can mix it into ground coffee before brewing. Use it in turkey or beef chili, sprinkle it over vegetables before roasting them (especially Brussels Sprouts), or try it on raw fruit. Nutmeg goes great with foods cooked in coconut oil for your vegan dishes.
Everybody raves about Turmeric and its health benefits. It’s well-known as a potent inflammation fighter and thought to inhibit the growth of tumors, so scientists are researching its effects as a cancer treatment. In India, they apply it as a paste to help wounds heal and use it to make a tea to relieve colds and aid in respiratory problems. Curcumin is the compound found in turmeric that has serious antioxidant powers. It can relieve arthritis pain, and if eaten regularly, it may help prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Turmeric might also help digest fats.
How to incorporate it into your diet?Turmeric doesn’t have a very strong taste, so it’s easy to add into salads and other simple, healthy dishes like this Turmeric Rice Bowl with Root Vegetables. It’s regularly used in sauces and curries, like this easy Chickpea Curry. Turmeric lends a bright color to roasted vegetables and soups, so try this Roasted Cauliflower Potato Curry Soup. There are so many options when it comes to this borderline magical spice!
Ginger is known to settle an upset stomach and ease nausea, but it can also help with sore muscles and pain! It works by reducing inflammation (with compounds called gingerals) and blocking the nerve pathways that process pain. Some research suggests that it can help with memory when eaten (or taken as a supplement) daily. It’s also got great antioxidant properties, so it could play a role in preventing cancers.
How to incorporate it into your diet?Combine ginger with hot water and honey to make a fresh tea. Add it to your smoothies or fresh juices if you’re planning a juice cleanse. Or use it in a vegetable-packed Asian stir-fry. It’s also great in soups and marinades for chicken or fish.
Try our Spice Cleanser Box Set packed with goodness including a jar of Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger and Green Cardamom for £18.
It’s like a tiny salad! Oregano contains a high density of vitamin K - which is great for building bones - and an incredibly high density of antioxidants. It can also fight off a stomach flu by stopping the growth of bacteria that enters our bodies through food (like Listeria). Oregano has antiviral, anticancer, and antimicrobial properties. In the past, it was combined with oil to fight cough, fever, body aches, and congestion.
How to incorporate it into your diet? Sprinkle oregano into your soups to fight off illness! Even a half-teaspoon mixed into canned soup can make a difference. Make a salad dressing by mixing it with olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt, then heating it until fragrant. Use it in your stews, on pizzas, and in tomato sauces for added flavour and nutritional value.
Cumin is used in all sorts of Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine. It aids in digestion, helps you absorb nutrients more efficiently, reduces gas, and has antimicrobial properties. It’s filled with iron, which keeps your immune system running and energy levels high. According to studies, it may also boost your memory and it may even help in weight loss!
How to incorporate it into your diet?As the seed or the powder, cumin can be used to roast vegetables like carrots and potatoes. The seeds are great for flavouring rice - just add some to the pot before cooking. It’s also perfect for chili, lentil stews, Mexican dishes, and especially pork for its aromatic nature. Sprinkle it on hummus or bean dips to add a little flavour and iron!
Rosemary has a high concentration of antioxidants and may aid in the treatment of healthy digestion and even cancer. It’s good for your cholesterol and it can help fight aging by preventing cell damage and rejuvenating those small blood vessels just under the skin. Adding rosemary to a red meat marinade can also prevent the formation of those harmful free radicals called heterocyclic amines by up to 84 percent. And just the scent of rosemary has helped subjects perform better on memory tests, so scientists think it could boost brain activity too.
How to incorporate it into your diet?It’s great in meat dishes as well as in soups or on vegetables. Rosemary pairs well with oregano and thyme, so mix them all with olive oil and lemon for a great chicken marinade. Use it with ginger in your chamomile tea for an immune-boosting health tonic. Everyone knows it’s great on roasted potatoes, but try it on beets!
One last thing. Don’t forget the salt! True sea salt contains over 90 trace minerals, like iron, zinc, iodine, and manganese. Replace your table salt with one of our natural blends.
Fresh spices and herbs can add a lot of nutritional value to your everyday diet! But remember, we’re not doctors, so this isn’t medical advice!
Since it's Global Entrepreneurship Week, I thought I'd explain exactly how the idea for Zest & Zing came about. I learned to cook some years ago back when I was living in France simply because I was so inspired by the quality of the truly fresh produce available there...