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Four Healthy Herbs and a Spice to add to your meals
I have found in cooking that adding tasty herbs and spices to dishes I cook enhances the taste but also makes the meal so much more healthy. New research shows that certain herbs and spices can help to lower blood pressure, ease arthritis and slow the growth of some cancer cells.
They also help protect against such chronic conditions as diabetes, heart disease and the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
"Many different herbs and spices offer health benefits," said David Heber, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
Herbs, like rosemary and parsley, come from plants and plant parts. Spices, like cinnamon, come from seeds, berries, bark or roots of plants. Both 'spice' up our foods and add the health benefits to our bodies.
Polyphenols, a type of plant compound, provides one of the main health benefits associated with herbs and spices. Polyphenols are also abundant in certain fruits, vegetables, teas and red wines.
Another plus for using herbs and spices in your dishes is that they enhance your foods without the extra calories and can reduce the amount of salt, fat, and sugar without sacrificing flavor. Therefore, they can help your waist-line and overall health.
I first learned about using fresh herbs in cooking from my mother who used them often when she cooked. We always had fresh basil, parsley, and mint growing in our side garden. We used fresh basil in meats and in our salads; fresh sliced tomato and mozzarella cheese salad and tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion salad. Parsley was used in almost every dish and we threw mint into lamb dishes and salads. Not only did they enhance the flavor of the food but also brought health benefits to our bodies.
Why not take advantage of eating healthier by just adding a few herbs to your meals? It is so easy to do and adds to the taste of the meal, too.
Fresh herbs are best for adding to your meals, but if not available the dried bottled spices and herbs from the grocery store are the next best thing.
Why not take advantage of both taste and health when cooking your next meal?
Here are some of the fresh herbs and spices I add to my meals on a daily basis that not only bring out the essence of the flavors of the dish I am making, but also add healthy rewards.
Parsley, many times, is used as a garnish on a plate of food and is ignored for its wonderful healing and healthy properties. Eating fresh parsley is a natural breath freshener. It is the world's most popular herb, native to the Mediterranean area, but easily grown here in the U.S. It is a direct relative of celery.
Parsley is easily grown at your home and is a good source of Vitamin C, iron and flavonoids, which the American Institute for Cancer Research says can help protect your body cells from cancer.
It specifically can inhibit breast cancer cell growth. The University of Missouri scientists found in their studies and experiments that animals given apigenin, a compound in parsley and celery, boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors.
Parsley's oils, especially, myristicin, have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies, and specifically tumor formation in lungs. It also helps to neutralize certain types of carcinogens.
Flavonoids in parsley, specifically luteolin, functions as an anti-oxidant and combines with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules. This helps to prevent oxygen-based damage to cells.
Parsley is also a great source of folic acid, one of the important B vitamins. It also helps to prevent heart disease and diabetes.
Experts recommend adding a couple of pinches of minced fresh parsley to your food dishes daily.
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Turmeric, an herb native to India, stops inflammation and inhibits tumors. It is full of manganese, iron and Vitamin B6. It has been a favorite ingredient of cooks since ancient times. It comes from the root stalk of a tropical plant in the ginger family. It has been used in India to help heal wounds and is also made into a tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that has potent anti-oxident and anti-inflammatory properties in it. Studies show that it helps to relieve the pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures. The University of Arizona College of Medicine says that curcumin helps prevent joint inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Rutgers University researchers say turmeric can also slow the spread of prostate cancer.
Recently, it is being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Scientists believe it has great potential as a cancer treatment, particularly colon, prostate and breast cancer. Preliminary studies show that it can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.
When used in food, turmeric adds a bright golden color and a pungent flavor that is found in everything from Indian curry powder to traditional American mustard. It enhances the flavor of Southeastern Asian recipes, including curries, soups, rice and pilaf dishes, vegetables, chicken or lentil dishes. It also adds a punch to relishes and chutneys. It is great to add to sir-fried rice and vegetable dishes.
Sage is the 'smart herb', literally. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist) It contains antioxidants and is known as a memory booster. It preserves memory and soothes sore throats. Herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats.
This herb can improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer's onset by preventing a key enzyme from destroying, acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. Alzheimer researchers have discovered that it is the enzymes in the brain that are causing Alzheimer and this herb helps in boosting the chemical that triggers memory and learning.
In a recent college study students, who took sage extracts in capsule form, performed significantly better on memory tests and their moods improved.
And, The University of Georgia studies suggest that sage can prevent tissue damage caused by high blood sugar and may even offer protection against cardiovascular disease.
Sage can be used with and enhances the flavor of sweet fruits, vegetables, apples, squash, sausage and cheeses.
I use rosemary a lot in cooking meats and poultry because it contains fiber, iron, and calcium. It also increases blood circulation throughout the body and helps to improve digestion. It can enhance mental focus and fights food borne bacteria.
Rosmarinic acid and other anti-oxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling and makes cooked meals healthier.
A Kansas State University Study (March 2010) has researchers reporting that adding rosemary to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines, (HCA's), a cancer causing compound produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.
Scientists from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research found that rosemary can help protect brain cells from the aging process and from damage caused by the free radicals that lead to Alzheimer's.
Rosemary is used in cooking chicken, pork, and salmon, and blends well with tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms. It is used many times in marinades for meats and poultry.
Which is your favorite to use in cooking?
I eat cinnamon everyday in something. I sprinkle ground cinnamon on my hot oatmeal and puddings. I also sprinkle some in my coffee and on my toast. Cinnamon's health benefits are that it has the highest levels of measured antioxidant activity by lowering blood pressure and lowering blood sugar in diabetes.
Cassia cinnamon is the kind most Americans use in baking and cooking. It is also the variety most researchers have used when they've studied cinnamon and diabetes. It lowers blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance.
In one study, volunteers ate from one to six grams of cinnamon for forty days. One gram of cinnamon equals one-half teaspoon. Researchers found that cinnamon reduced cholesterol by eighteen percent and blood sugar levels by twenty-four percent.
In another study, volunteers ate cinnamon and rice pudding after a meal. These volunteers had reduced blood sugar levels.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that cinnamon can lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, and slow the proliferation of cancerous cells in people with leukemia.
Saigon cinnamon (Vietnamese) is prized for its sweet and spicy taste and aroma. It is considered the finest and most flavorful cinnamon in the world. It is used in fancy coffee drinks, hot oatmeal, cookies, fruit crisps and puddings.
The main dishes it is used in are chicken, seafood, and lamb. The international cuisines that use this in their foods are Indian, Greek, Mexican, and Middle Eastern. It is an important ingredient in the popular Vietnamese noodle soup called pho.
Uses of Healthy Herbs/Spices
Good source of Vitamin C, iron and flavonoids
Good used in any food
Manganese, iron, Vitamin B6
Used in curries, stir-fried rice and veggies
Anti-oxidants and memory enhancer
Used with sweet fruits and vegetables, apples, squash, sausage and cheese
Fiber, iron and calcium. Increases circulation and improves digestion
Used with chicken, pork, salmon. Blends well with tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms
Anti-oxidant, lowers blood pressure and blood sugar
Baking of cookies and cakes, hot oatmeal, (rice) puddings, coffees
A Healthy Recipe using Herbs
This recipe is from my former mother-in-law, a retired RN, who made delicious low-fat meals using herbs and spices. This quickly became one of my favorite recipes and I continue to make it today. It is easy and quick to make and so healthy. Be sure to have parsley, rosemary and tarragon on hand for this recipe as well as white wine.
Chicken in White Wine / 4 servings / preheat oven at 350 degrees
2 2-pound chickens, cut up
2 teaspoons salt or enough to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh (or dried) parsley
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 cup wine
1. Put chicken in shallow baking dish.
2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and add the wine.
3. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
How easy is that! The blend of the parsley, rosemary and tarragon with the chicken and wine will amaze you and taste delicious. And it is so healthy too. A whole chicken can be substituted with skinless and boneless chicken breasts and this is how I make it. The fat content of the recipe is: breast, raw, per lb. = 8.6 grams of fat.
I usually serve brown rice and steamed mixed veggies with the chicken. Delicious!
Learn how to dry your own herbs
Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel
© 2014 Suzette Walker