Spices and herbs have been around since around 3000 BC, known for their unique flavors as well as their many medicinal benefits. Spices and herbs boast minimal calories while being packed with significant amounts of micronutrients (those essential elements required by our bodies in small quantities throughout our lives to ensure normal metabolism, and growth to maintain health). There is also extensive evidence of the many medicinal benefits of herbs and spices, and they have become an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, many spices in grocery stores, unless they are organic, have been irradiated, which is a process of exposing food to radiation to destroy microorganisms, viruses, bacteria or insects. The problem is irradiation also disrupts the food's structure and destroys essential micronutrients.
A list of some of the best herbs and spices to have in your kitchen:
OREGANO - Oregano has high levels of antibacterial compounds and antioxidants and works best in tomato dishes.
BASIL - Basil has powerful antioxidant properties (combats cancer), works as an anti-inflammatory food in the digestive tract, such as gas, constipation, and indigestion. It is shown to assist the immune system helping combat viral infections such as colds and flu. Basil is wonderful in a variety of dishes, including eggs, lamb, fish, tomato sauces.
BLACK PEPPER - Black pepper is a rich source of minerals and assists in the absorption of nutrients, aids in weight loss, treats sinus and nasal congestion, improves digestion and can reduce the risk of cancer and heart ailments. It is best to buy whole peppercorns, not the powdered black pepper. Pepper can be used in most dishes.
CAYENNE - Cayenne and all hot peppers boost metabolism, increases circulation, works as an appetite suppressant and metabolism booster. Capsaicin, found in cayenne, has properties that increase blood flow and metabolism. If used infrequently it can reduce hunger. Cayenne works well with meats and cheeses.
CINNAMON - Cinnamon controls glucose levels with antioxidants called polyphenols. Sprinkling one-half teaspoon on your food is shown to slow carbohydrate absorption by 29 percent (reducing insulin response). Cinnamon also improves circulation and has antimicrobial properties. Cinnamon goes well in stews, pies and is found in most cuisines.
CUMIN - Cumin regulates digestion, relieving gas and stimulating the glands that secrete enzymes responsible for complete digestion of food. Early studies are showing cumin can have a powerful effect in preventing diabetes. Cumin is very rich in iron and aids in preventing anemia while increasing blood flow which leads to increased cognitive performance. And cumin has anticancer properties, especially good for colon cancer prevention. Cumin goes well in barbecue sauces and soups, rubbed on meats prior to grilling or roasting and can flavor many foods.
DILL - Dill helps your digestion and can reduce bloating by up to 80 percent with just one teaspoon a day. The essential oils in dill have calming and hypnotic effects to help prevent insomnia. Dill contains calcium and can help maintain bone health. Dill has antimicrobial properties that help to boost immunity. Dill also helps calm hiccups by reducing gas formation. Dill is great in fish and chicken.
GINGER - Ginger aids in digestion and has been used since ancient times to cure diarrhea, preventing stomach spasms and gas. Studies are now showing ginger to aid in the prevention of cancer with its anti-inflammatory qualities. Ginger is also a known aphrodisiac and has been used for years to arouse desire and enhance sexual activity. Ginger goes well in marinades, dressings, sauces and with sweet potatoes, baked apples, vegetables.
ROSEMARY - Rosemary stimulates the immune system and aids in digestion and is also known as a brain booster and fatigue fighter. On sniff of rosemary can rev up your mind by increasing production of beta waves. Rosemary fights fatigue by flushing out toxins that sap your energy from the body. Rosemary has also been linked to stimulating cognitive activity in the elderly, even those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Rosemary goes well in soups, sauces, stews, and roasts.
SAGE - Sage is good for the brain, by maintaining levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports memory. As with rosemary, small amounts of sage when inhaled or consumed can increase recall abilities and memory retention in people. Sage also treats inflammatory issues, such as arthritis and gout as well as general inflammation of the cardiovascular system. Sage is a wonderful addition to stuffing and pork dishes.
THYME - Thyme is well known to treat respiratory issues. Thyme acts as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory substance. It can eliminate phlegm and mucus from respiratory tracts and eases inflammation to help breathe. Brewing thyme leaves into a tea is the best way to achieve relief from respiratory ailments. Thyme can also relieve stress, is rich in anti-fungal properties, boosts the immune system and improves circulation. Thyme goes well in soups, stuffing, beef, pork, eggs, fish and cheese.
TUMERIC - Tumeric is rich in benefits. The active ingredient is curcumin, which benefits every organ in our body and shows promise of fighting nearly every disease. Tumeric is good for the heart, is anti-inflammatory and has anticancer properties. Curcumin controls blood sugar, speeds up metabolism and is shown to remove amyloid plaque buildup in the brain that can cause Alzheimer’s. Tumeric will complement stews and soups, poultry or seafood and should be used sparingly.