Variety’s the spice of life, That gives it all its flavor. – William Cowper
In prior blogs, we’ve discussed cravings and savoring our ancestral foods as a means to achieve satiety. Today we are looking at the herbs and spices that give our meals flavor as well as health benefits. We all have our favorites! For me, cinnamon is an essential: I add half a teaspoon to my morning coffee and sprinkle copious amounts on my Greek yogurt, berries, and walnuts. I recently found a new herbal tea with cinnamon, ginger and cardamom that has become a quick favorite. What spices up your life?
As far as herbs go, I love parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in soups and gravies, and I love adding cilantro to avocado and black bean salads and other Mexican dishes. Cilantro is an interesting herb – some people love it and some can’t stomach it. There is a genetic variation that makes some people react to the aldehyde component in cilantro, making it taste like soap. Luckily for me, I don’t have that variant, and love cilantro’s peppery taste.
When I practice intermittent or therapeutic fasting, I add herbs and spice to my coffee, tea, bone or vegan broth. There are purists who don’t consider it a true fast unless it’s plain water, but these flavorful additions do not affect my glucose response. The added aroma and flavor in warm beverages provide more variety and help me sustain the hours when I am not eating meals. Star anise, for example, smells like licorice in my tea.
All herbs and spices have nutritional value, and some have anti-inflammatory properties and medicinal purposes that have been utilized for centuries in different cultures. The attached PDF, Spice Up Your Meals, is a recent handout from an Institute for Integrative Nutrition module that I’d like to share with you. Look up the properties of the herbs and spices you frequently use and try some of the others for their nutritional benefits that match your health and wellness goals.
Cinnamon, for example, may help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and aid in weight loss and digestive health. Cilantro may help move heavy metals through the digestive tract and out of the body (chelation). Ginger may help with digestion and gut health, inflammation, nausea, and cold symptoms; and it may help lower oxidative stress. Mint calms the digestive system; may improve irritable bowel syndrome, brain function, and cold symptoms; and may help with bad breath. Nutmeg may help with insomnia. It may possibly slow cognitive decline; boost mood; help relieve pain; relax blood vessels and may help lower blood pressure; it may even promote brain recovery after stroke. (See sources at the end of the attached PDF). Other spices with healthy benefits include turmeric, cayenne, and garlic. 5 Spices with Healthy Benefits | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Regardless of the eating plan you have chosen to follow, spices and herbs will keep your meals interesting and help keep you on track. Enjoying the flavor of your food is one of the keys to satiety.
♥ Susan L. Ward
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach