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Do You Have These Healthy Spices in Your Kitchen?

January 3, 2014

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Are you ready to upgrade your spice rack? We’ve rounded up some culinary spices that add a little something special to mealtime—heat, flavor, aroma, color, texture, and sometimes significant health benefits, too. Dare we call them super spices, but these herbs have been found to do everything from fighting inflammation and infection to warding off the blues. Get ready to work in a dash or pinch of some of these naturally healthy and healing varieties.

Lavender: It might be the scent of your body wash or hand lotion, but this sweet smelling flower is budding with culinary uses and health benefits. One well-known perk of the purple petals is for relieving stress and insomnia. Sprinkle some into a homemade vinaigrette dressing, a cup of yogurt, or on some grilled salmon. Lavender may also help with depression, headache, nausea, and bloating.

Turmeric: This yellow-orange spice from the ginger family is often used to flavor curry powder. In fact, turmeric has long been used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for improving digestion, arthritis, and irregular menstrual cycles. It’s slightly bitter yet mild in taste and contains a powerful antioxidant and cancer-fighting chemical called curcumin. Try some in a coconut-milk based sauce or in roasted cauliflower or lentils to add some heat. 

Chervil: Often called French parsley, chervil is a warm and delicate herb that contains vitamins such as potassium and calcium and has many therapeutic uses. It may be helpful for high blood pressure, coughs, liver and digestive problems, and also acts as a diuretic and detoxifier. Consider using chervil next time you make an omelet or throw a few sprigs into steamed spinach. Add the spice toward the tail end of your cooking to avoid overheating it.

Sumac: The deep red spice, sumac adds a citrusy and tart taste to food. It’s also packed with antioxidants and antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties. Have you ever had za’atar? The Middle Eastern spice blend actually contains a mix of sumac, sesame seeds and other herbs like thyme, which makes it a healthy choice for your spice rack. Try a dash of sumac on humus, infuse olive oil with it, or sprinkle the spice directly onto pizza crust.

Saffron: Feeling tired and moody? Consider mixing saffron into some rice pilaf or polenta. It might be a bit of a splurge, but with saffron, a few threads go a long way in your culinary creations. Plus, the golden spice may be just what you need to fight fatigue, PMS, and even mild depression. Saffron has been found to have anti-cancer properties and may stave off eye problems, such as macular degeneration.

Do you like cooking with exotic spices? What do you use to put a little zest and zing into your meals?