Time to spice up your life

Herbs and spice and all things nice….

 

Salt is essential for the body as it helps transmit nerve impulses and contract muscle fibres, while also aiding potassium to balance fluid levels. However, we only need a small amount – less than 1/10 of a teaspoon daily. Too much can result in high blood pressure and associated health problems, so it’s little wonder there are major health concerns around diets dominated by processed food.

The solution is to eat more real food and to season it in a more imaginative way. Herbs and spices provide the answer, and as our taste for salt is acquired, it is possible to reduce our intake a little at a time, allowing our taste buds to adapt.

Simple salt alternatives
  • For everyday table seasoning: mix 2 tbsp of dry mustard, paprika and onion powder. Add 2 tsp of garlic powder, white ground pepper, dried thyme, dried oregano and mix. Add ½ tsp ground coriander and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper. Mix well and store in a covered airtight container, use each time instead of salt.
  • For meat and fish dishes: mix 1 tsp dried thyme, dried marjoram and dried basil. Add 2 tbsp garlic powder and mix. Then add 1 tsp turmeric and ½ tsp ground black pepper. Mix well and store in a covered airtight container, use each time instead of salt.
Inspirational salt alternatives

If your seasoning experience to date has been confined to salt and pepper an exciting journey awaits. And while your taste buds are tickled, incredible nutritional advantages will also accrue from including herbs and spices in your regular eating routine with their antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Cut down on the bad – eat more of the good

Herbs are the leaves of the plant, while spices are made from the flowers, berries, bark, seeds, roots and gum.  To help explore this wonderful new world of flavours I have grouped them under several headings: sweet, sweet & spicy, fresh, fragrant, pungent, woody, spicy and hot spicy. I’ve also noted some specific suggestions how the ingredients might be used, as well as the wonderful health properties they contain.

Sweet

Cinnamon – use in cakes, Moroccan dishes or sprinkled daily on porridge.

It takes no more than half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder every day to help reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly gastric and pancreatic. Cinnamon is also a source of iron and calcium. 

Clove – use in baking, sprinkle on porridge or add to homemade stews.

Contains high amounts of eugenol, which can help fight free radicals. 

Sweet & spicy

Allspice – use in cakes, muffins or Jamaican cuisine.

Derived from dried unripe berries of the Pimenta dioica tree, it contains flavonoids, phenolic acids, catechins and several phenyl-propanoids, all of which can contribute to better health. Allspice possesses antioxidants properties, which could be beneficial against liver and colon cancer. 

Fresh

Basil – use in tomato sauce, salads or pesto.

A culinary herb, with sweet basil the most frequently examined for its health benefits.  Basil contains linalool, estragole and eugenol, with evidence that it could decrease carcinogenesis (cancer formation).  It may also help against viral infections, including hepatitis B. 

Dill – fresh & delicate, use with any fish, also great in potato dishes.

Can help maintain and protect cells against free radicals.  The combination of increased antioxidants in dill may be particularly helpful in detoxifying foreign compounds including carcinogens.  

Fennel – aniseed & fresh, use with pork, fish or in tomato sauce.

High in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which can benefit health. Fennel seeds can also aid with digestion.

Ginger – fresh, lemony and warm, use in baking, Indian cuisine or mix with yogurt and berries.

Widely consumed as a medical agent, the anti-cancer research around ginger is intriguing, with additional studies required to clarify the overall health benefits.

Fragrant

Cardamom – use in custard or rice dishes and in Indian cuisine.

Demonstrated to have antioxidant properties with the ability to scavenge free radicals.

Coriander – use in any spicy dish, with salsa or salads.

One of its principal components is linalool, which can promote the hepatic antioxidant system.

Oregano – use in tomato dishes, on pizza or in salads.

High in antioxidants (phenolic acids and flavonoids in particular). One teaspoon has the power of two cups of red grapes. The quercetin present in oregano may also restrict the growth of malignant cells in the body.  

Saffron – fragrant and spicy, use in Spanish cuisine, Indian cuisine or in rice dishes.

Traditionally used as a colouring agent, it’s a good source of antioxidants, and the carotenoid crocetin, which can aid in keeping healthy. 

Pungent

Garlic – use widely.

Its components may lower the incidence of breast, colon, skin, uterine, oesophagus, and lung cancers.  It is high in arginine-rich proteins and oligosaccharides, which may contribute to several dietary factors with potential health benefits. 

Woody

Rosemary – use with lamb, in Greek cuisine or great for meat and chicken marinades.

Contains biological compounds, such as carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid.  When rosemary is added along with other herbs to a balsamic vinaigrette it could aid in the protection against oxidative stress.  

Sage – use in stuffing, risotto and dumpling dishes.

Due to its high antioxidant capacity, sage can aid the body’s cells defence from the damage of free radicals, which could result in chronic diseases.

Thyme – use with any meat, tomato dish or as a refreshing and digestive tea, popular in France.

Contains several active agents such as thymol, carvcrol, apigenin, luteolin and other oils. Some research has shown it to be helpful against liver and colon cancer.

Spicy

Caraway – use with pork dishes, Moroccan cuisine or in Middle Eastern dishes.

Also known as “meridian fennel” or “Persian cumin” it is ‘aniseed spicy’ with essential oils and oleoresins which in some studies have been proven to be effective against skin tumours.   

Cumin – use in Indian cuisine, Mexican cuisine or any dish that benefits from a bit of spice.

Considerable evidence points to thymoquinone (a compound in cumin) that it could help suppress tumour cells. This is a spice with widespread health potentials.

Hot Spicy

Cayenne pepper – use in Mexican cuisine, tomato sauce or sprinkle on dips. Spices-up any dish.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient found in cayenne, may have pain-relieving properties.

Colourful

Turmeric – use in as many dishes as possible, but to derive the full benefits mix with black pepper.

Its active ingredient, curcumin, a polyphenol that binds to iron and is responsible for its slightly bitter taste, has shown in some research to inhibit inflammatory reactions. 

In the Just Routine app foodbook we categorise herbs and spices as healthy flavour boosts to be encouraged daily, as their potential health benefits are extraordinary. Don’t hold back from spicing up your life to help with long term wellness.

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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