Herbs and spices add flavor, color and health benefits (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc.) to foods – not to mention that they can take the place of salt and excess oil in a recipe (which many of us are trying to cut back on). And since I love to cook, I am always trying different combinations of seasoning to see what goes with what. For someone who doesn’t love cooking quite so much, or who’s new to cooking, the many herbs and spices available can be overwhelming.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me what herbs and spices I would choose if I could only use five. It definitely took some thinking, but below are my top five herbs and spices (excluding salt and pepper), along with cooking suggestions and health benefits:
- Cinnamon: great in yogurt, sprinkled on toast with peanut or almond butter (and bananas), on sweet potatoes (think Thanksgiving) or mixed into yogurt. Cinnamon can help improve (lower) blood sugar levels because it acts similarly to insulin in our bodies. Cinnamon may also decrease risk for metabolic syndrome as it has been shown to improve blood sugar, BMI (body mass index) and blood pressure.
- Lemon Pepper: love it in marinades, sprinkled on chicken or fish and/or on most vegetables. It goes especially well with broccoli, green beans and sauteed greens. Black pepper may improve digestion and decrease inflammation along the digestive tract. Lemons contain vitamin C as well as antioxidants.
- Red Pepper Flakes: sprinkle on top of veggies, in Mexican foods, over proteins (chicken, fish, beef, tofu), over potatoes or mix into sauces and soups/chilis. Red pepper may help the body burn additional calories after eating and may also promote satiety (a full feeling).
- Cumin: use in Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines. Think tacos (sprinkle some in ground beef or turkey), salsas, hummus and over roasted vegetables (eggplant, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers) and beans/lentils. I also love it sprinkled on top of chicken (before cooking) or using it in a marinade. Cumin has benefits that may help improve digestion, respiratory issues and rheumatoid arthritis. Cumin also has antibacterial, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Rosemary: adds an earthy, woody flavor. I love it on roasted potatoes (white, red, sweet), over chicken and pork, with carrots, in soup or sprinkled over a salad. Rosemary supports brain health and may reduce the risk of heart disease. It has antioxidant properties and can help decrease the potentially harmful oxidant properties of grilled meat.
I immediately regret this decision. What about smoked paprika? Basil? Curry powder? Well, I guess that’s why the challenge was choosing just five.
What are your top five??