March 28

Cooking Healthier Meals with Herbs and Spices

By Tim Renner of Gardant Management Solutions

March National Nutrition Month 2016
For the final blog in our National Nutrition Month series, we are focusing on the health benefits of herbs and spices.

Herbs, including basil, thyme, oregano and parsley, are from plants and plant parts. Spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark or roots of plants. Many people use herbs and spices as an alternative to salt and other seasonings, and it’s an easy way to start cooking healthier meals.

When picking out herbs, you want to get the freshest ones possible because the nutrient quality diminishes with time. Look at the packaging date, inspect the quality and avoid any herbs with black spots or signs that they may have been eaten by insects. Whenever possible, fresh picked herbs are the best option.

With spices, it’s important to use them before the expiration date and purchase containers that are sealed tightly, so they aren’t exposed to air. They will also need to stay out of the heat, humidity and sunlight.

herbs and spicesHere are some examples of popular herbs and spices and their health benefits:

– Sage has many wonderful health benefits, including being an excellent memory enhancer. Sage is rich in rosmarinic acid, which helps reduce inflammation. This herb can also help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

– Cinnamon helps stimulate digestion and appetite. It can help sooth an upset stomach, relieve indigestion, excess wind and nausea. It is also beneficial for alleviating diarrhea.  Cinnamon helps keep blood sugar levels balanced, making it an ideal spice for diabetics. Cinnamon is also very high in antioxidants and helps improve circulation.

– Oregano is another rich source of antioxidants and vitamin K,  which is important for improving the body’s ability to fight off infections and for improving bone density and blood clotting. This herb has strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Traditionally, it has been used to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders.

– Coriander seeds can help stimulate insulin secretion to help lower blood sugar levels, making it a beneficial herb for diabetics. Coriander has also been found to reduce bad cholesterol levels and boosting good cholesterol levels. It also acts as a natural antibiotic and fights off salmonella and other food-borne illnesses.

– Rosemary is used to boost memory and concentration and to relieve stress , making it a great herb for students. This herb can also improve circulation, ease indigestion, heartburn and wind, and can be used to help stimulate hair growth. Rosemary is high in iron and vitamin C, so it will help support healthy immune function to fight colds, flu and other infections.

– Cumin is beneficial for improving digestion and has anti-fungal properties. Cumin also helps the liver detoxify and can help relieve insomnia.

*Source for herb and spice benefits: www.bodyandsoul.com

Tim Renner is an Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Services at Gardant Management Solutions.

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