Herbify your Meals like Super(wo)man
Updated: Jun 1, 2019
The power of herbs and spices is truly amazing and WAY overlooked. Through various combinations, a dash of an herb here and a sprinkle of a spice there has the potential to truly transform your health (and your cooking)! Below are some of my favorites that are among the easiest to incorporate in your everyday and also easy to find in any grocery store. While there are obviously so many more, there is no need to overhaul your entire spice cabinet.
Beneficial Herbs and Spices, and a few other things, to Incorporate in Meals
-Turmeric & Black Pepper
Chronic inflammation has been linked to nearly every disease found in Western society. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that gives it its anti-inflammatory properties and is a strong antioxidant that also helps the body to produce its own antioxidant enzymes. Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood stream on its own. Black pepper contains piperine, a natural substance that increases the absorption of curcumin significantly. Because curcumin is fat soluble, it is also beneficial to consume it with a fatty meal to increase its effectiveness. (check out my homemade black pepper and turmeric paste HERE). Consuming curcumin has also been linked to a decrease in brain disease and degradation.
Besides peppermint, ginger is my go to for bloating issues, easing digestion discomfort, and alleviating nausea. I include ginger in my teas, curries, and bulletproof brews (find my Chai RanchHand HERE). Ginger is also really great for alleviating muscle soreness, improving immune function, and relieving flu-like symptoms.
A gal's best friend (or lad's) for reducing bloating after a meal. Peppermint is ideal for soothing indigestion and gas. I have also found peppermint to be incredibly helpful in relieving headache pain and reducing the ache of a fever (I typically use peppermint essential oil on a cold cloth and apply to my forehead or brew some strong peppermint tea to smell). I also find that drinking peppermint tea before bed helps me doze off quicker. Other great benefits of peppermint include eliminating bad breath, improving focus, alleviating menstrual cramp pains, and clearing clogged sinuses. My favorite way to enjoy peppermint is by drinking fresh brewed peppermint tea.
The benefits of garlic are largely attributed to the sulfur compounds produced when it is chopped or crushed. These sulfur compounds enter the body through the digestive tract and travel throughout the body, employing potent biological effects. These biological effects include bolstering the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and emerging studies suggest a positive role in lowering LDL cholesterol. Compounds found in garlic have also been linked to decreasing the onset of several brain diseases, such as Dementia and Alzhemier's. In addition, recent findings offer promising potential of garlic as an athletic performance enhancer and heavy metal detoxifier. If you like the taste, garlic is incredibly easy to incorporate in your cooking (I personally use it in any dish I can- salads, sauces, meat dishes..). If you can't stand the taste of garlic, I suggest purchasing a quality garlic supplement to take,
-Raw Honey (ok not really a herb nor a spice)
There is an important distinction to be made between raw honey and non-raw honey. The processing of honey significantly reduces the medicinal benefits gained from consumption. Albeit slight more expensive, if you're looking for benefits beyond added sweeteness I highly suggest dishing out just a little more dough. Raw honey is not only incredibly delicious and versatile, it is also a potent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial food. In addition to eating it, try dabbing some on a pimple before bed and see what happens to that zit in the morning! Because it has not been processed, raw honey maintains all its enzymes, dense nutrients, and vitamins fully intact. Raw honey is ideal for soothing a sore throat, dismissing seasonal allergies, improving skin radiance, and improving immune function.
Again, not exactly an herb or a spice. But totally worth incorporating into your everyday! Remember that craze from a few years ago about drinking hot lemon water first thing in the morning? Well, there is something to it. Lemon is rich in vitamin C and because of its versatility in flavor, it is easy to incorporate into meals and drinks. From its antibacterial to immune boosting properties, the addition of lemon on a salad or in your water bottle is a no brainer. Lemon is also a great detoxifier and is beneficial to cleaning the liver and skin, while providing ample hydration of tissues.
As with many of the above, oregano is beneficial for the immune system and is a great detoxifying agent. In fact, oil of oregano is hot on the markets right now because of this. It has a unique ability to help protect against bacteria that is harmful to the gut and skin. Oregano has also been used to treat urinary tract infections and viral infections.
This one is great. Cinnamon is SO easy to incorporate and adds great subtle flavor to anything you sprinkle it on. It is great for stabilizing blood sugar levels, reducing blood pressure, and consequently supporting the decrease in risk of heart-related diseases. Opt for Ceylon cinnamon over Cassia and Saigon cinnamon, as these two contain Coumarin- which has been linked to liver damage in large doses. Cinnamon is a great spice to have on hand for balancing blood sugar. In addition to its antibacterial properties, it promotes the uptake of glucose and increases insulin sensitivity.
Unsweetened cocoa powder has more minerals (iron, magnesium, phosphorous...) and contains more flavonoids (plant-based compounds that promote blood vessel relaxation and a decrease in blood pressure) than its sweetened counterpart. Cocoa has also been linked to an increase in healthy circulation and blood flow to the brain.
Rosemary is a great herb for brain health. The compounds in rosemary help protect against brain aging by supporting neurological protection. Rosemary is also fantastic for enhancing memory and concentration.
Parsley is a source of folic acid, one of the most important B vitamins for optimal red blood cell formation and decreasing homocysteine (high levels of which can damage blood vessels). It is also rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K, and minerals iron and potassium. Parsely helps to reduce water retention and is often taken to reduce the appearance of bloating. Other benefits of this herb include disease protection (mainly due to its high concentration of Vitamin C to help neutralize free radicals), decrease inflammation (parsley contains eugenol oil, shown to significantly reduce joint inflammation), and reduce the risk of cancers and autoimmune disorders (contains high levels of the phytochemical apigenin, a key factor in relaxing the central nervous system and lowering high blood pressure).