Top 6 Herbs and Spices for Health

May 06, 2019

"Among the top antioxidant foods, herbs and spices beat out all of the other categories in terms of their concentrated level of available antioxidants."

In today’s video, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, is going to talk about herbs, spices, and seasonings. All these have been used for thousands of years, not only as a way to improve the taste of food, but also to provide health and healing benefits. Dr. Nancy will share her top herbs and spices for health, and how to best use them.

Video Highlights.

  • 2:42: Fun facts about spices and herbs
  • 7:23: Difference between spices and herbs
  • 9:17: Health benefits of herbs and spices
  • 14:03: Top 6 recommended herbs and spices
  • 19:10: Turmeric
  • 21:00: Ginger
  • 24:24: Cinnamon
  • 26:21: Garlic
  • 30:45: Peppermint
  • 33:16: Oregano
  • 37:47: Wrap Up

Fun Facts about Spices and Herbs

The most used and most common herb across the world is cilantro, sometimes referred to as coriander. The spiciest used herb around the world is cumin. 

In Europe and in Africa predominantly, garlic is the most commonly used spice. In Mediterranean regions, the herb they love the most is oregano. 

The top selling spices in the world are pepper and mustard.

The most expensive spice in the world is saffron. It is more expensive than gold and it requires a lot of work and manpower to grow. It’s sold for $65 a gram and it is used for medicinal reasons to help open up the airways in conditions such as aromatic asthma, and whooping cough.

Difference Between Spices and Herbs

It is important to point out that herbs and spices are not the same thing. However, some plants can produce both herbs and spices, such as coriander and cilantro.

Herbs

Herbs are actually leaves of the herbaceous plants that die at the end of the growing season. It is usually the dried leaves or the flowering parts that are used. Herbs are used to add more delicious flavor in cooking and some have medicinal values as well. They’re often used in larger amounts than spices. For example, when cooking, you would typically use a larger amount of fresh basil or oregano than you would garlic or ginger.

Spices

On the other hand, spices are obtained from the roots, the flowers, the fruits, the seeds, and the bark. They are typically native to warm, tropical climates. Spices are more potent and usually have a stronger flavor than herbs. As a result, spices are typically used in smaller quantities.

Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices

There are many health benefits associated with herbs and spices. They have been shown to do many, many wonderful things. The benefits of herbs and spices include:

  • Herbs and spices can aid in weight loss
  • Helping control diabetes
  • Improving brain function
  • Reducing nausea
  • Boosting immune system function
  • Improving heart health
  • Keeping skin healthy and glowing
  • Regulating metabolism
  • Detoxifying the body
  • Balancing hormones
  • Certain herbs and spices are also used to improve digestion in the GI tract
  • Herbs and spices can be used to protect the body by fighting off infection, which prevents chronic illnesses
  • Reducing the inflammation throughout the body. Reducing inflammation is very important. It’s imperative to our overall well-being to be consistently reducing our inflammatory load and that is why we always recommend taking daily curcumin by Smarter Nutrition. Curcumin is the active healing compound found inside turmeric root.

Although different herbs and spices offer unique health benefits, most of them are well-known for having powerful antioxidant content. In fact, among the top antioxidant foods, herbs and spices beat out all of the other categories in terms of their concentrated level of available antioxidants.

Top 6 Recommended Herbs and Spices.

There are tons of healthy and spicy herbs out there that you can cook with. Here are the top 6 herbs and spices to cook with that provide the best antioxidants, healing power, and more good stuff. Plus, they lower your inflammatory level.

Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin inside, which is a very, very powerful antioxidant. It really helps in fighting against the damaging effects of inflammation which is at the root of many health problems, especially chronic problems such as skin conditions, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. It’s known for its rich, golden yellow, beautiful, brilliant color. You can blend it into your smoothies, make golden milk with it, add it to your soups or water when cooking, and also use it in making curry. You can buy it fresh or in its powdered form.

Ginger 

Ginger is known for easing nausea. Ginger is used to aid in soothing any kind of motion sickness or headaches. Studies show that it can help soothe morning sickness for women who are expecting, as well as nausea from surgery and chemotherapy treatment. Many people also take ginger for motion sickness. It’s also packed with gingerols, which is an inflammation-fighting compound that is believed to help fight some cancers, reduce osteoarthritis pain and swelling of joints, and help reduce cholesterol. 

Ginger lowers the risk of blood clotting and helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It has been shown to be really effective against exercise-induced muscle pain. It’s actually something that you can use all the time for many different ailments.

If you want to peel your ginger, you just need a spoon. All you have to do is use the edge of the spoon and pull the ginger over towards you to scrape the peel off. This can be done with turmeric as well.

You can toss your ginger in your green drink, or use it in a veggie stir fry to add a great zesty and tingly, yet warm flavor. However, note that fresh ginger can be a little bit spicy so a little bit goes a long way (especially if you’re using the juicer) so a thumb-sized portion is usually enough.

Cinnamon

Did you know Cinnabons in the mall are the worst thing you can eat? Most Americans eat way too much sugar. An average person consumes about 152 pounds of sugar in one year, which is equal to about three pounds (or six cups) of sugar in one week, which is 13 teaspoons of sugar every single day. This can lead to massive health problems including inflammation, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and a lot of other serious conditions.

Cinnamon is a great alternative to sugar. It tastes delicious and it combats the effects of inflammation, fends off free radicals that damage the cells, fights harmful bacteria, and may even help to lower blood sugar spikes for people with type 2 diabetes. It’s a great substitute for sugar. You can sprinkle cinnamon into your smoothies and teas, add it to golden milk, turmeric vegan lattes, or to any baked goods. Cinnamon is awesome and tastes great.

Garlic

Garlic is the original old school spice. It contains a bioactive compound, powerful antioxidants, and other nutrients which have been found to significantly lower blood pressure as well as reduce the time it takes to recover from colds. It also boosts the immune system and prevents inflammation and damage caused by harmful free radicals.

One specific compound found in garlic is called allicin and has been associated with lowering the chances of heart disease and helping with high cholesterol. Interestingly, you have to crush or chop the clove of fresh garlic in order to get to the benefits of this compound. The compound only forms after the cells of the garlic have been chopped or crushed. This is a protective mechanism from the garlic itself.

To crush the garlic, all you have to do is peel it and place it into your garlic crusher and smash it. Crush the garlic and add it to your sautéed Swiss chard, spinach, or any dark leafy green or vegetable you choose. Always finish with a splash of olive oil at the end, or some balsamic vinegar. Add garlic almost towards the end because you don’t want it to cook too much as this will take away all the nutrients and benefits. 

Peppermint

When you feel bad or run down, peppermint tea is an ideal treat. Research has proven that peppermint really helps to improve your mood, clear your mind and improve your focus. Peppermint is also a wonderful, effective soothing agent for an upset stomach. In fact, just the smell of peppermint has been shown to reduce nausea and common upset stomach. 

You can also use peppermint oils on your temples, behind your ears, and also behind your neck for headaches, stress tension, and migraines. Doctors are also finding that peppermint can be used to reduce the pain and uncomfortable symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by reducing bloating and relaxing the muscles of the digestive system. So you can rub the peppermint oils in your belly or drink some tea. You can also cook with fresh peppermint by tossing it in your salad, vinegar, or adding it to your drinking water. You can also chew the peppermint leaf. It tastes great and it’s a good way to freshen your breath.

Oregano

The word oregano actually means mountain joy and it was used as a symbol of happiness by the ancient Greeks and the Romans. Its tiny leaves are loaded with lots of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium, iron, manganese and fiber. Fresh oregano is loaded with antioxidants that help in fighting inflammation in the body. In fact it has more than 20 times more antioxidant power than any other herb and four times more than blueberries. This makes it one of the richest sources of antioxidants.

It’s also very medicinal and antimicrobial so people take oregano oil, which is pretty powerful and spicy, and they put it in veggie soft gel capsules and swallow it, so it starts to heal from the inside out. It also has vital nutrients that help keep bacteria at bay, fights bacterial and viral infections, and supports a healthy immune system. It pairs really well with most vegetables, meats, and fish as well as savory dishes. You can also add it to soups and salad dressings, to rice and quinoa, or even to your oils with fresh oregano. You can keep a small pot of oregano or basil plant on your window sill or on your porch. It looks good, has a lot of greenery, and it smells really nice.

Wrap Up

Cooking with fresh herbs and spices is a fantastic way to ramp up your flavor and add a little bit of goodness to your dishes. It’s also an amazing, awesome way to add an extra layer of nutrition to nearly any dish or drink that you love to consume.

There are literally hundreds of different herbs and spices that you can cook with and nearly all have a number of valuable health benefits. We talked about the six top herbs and spices that have been found to be most effective in providing the highest levels of anti-inflammatory compounds and supporting overall health and wellness. They include turmeric, curcumin, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, peppermint, and oregano.

The opportunities to add herbs and spices to the foods you cook are really unlimited. There are so many different choices and combinations; smoothies and juices, sautés and as garnishes, soups, and much more. Be creative in your kitchen! You can have fun and experiment with all of these different ways to add fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon to your dishes.

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