Most of us have dried herbs and spices lying around in our pantries and if you’re like me, you’ll haphazardly add them to recipes and food creations to improve the taste, look and smell. Personally, I purchase organic herbs fresh from the markets so they are free from harmful contaminants.
When I buy spices such as coriander, fennel, black pepper or cumin I often grind them down myself to create my own spice mixes so I can add it to marinades, stews, soups, broth and curries. I find that when I do this, the spice mixes I create are not only fresher and more pungent (so I use less), they also last longer.
Most herbs and spices have many benefits including anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties as well as containing minerals and antioxidants.
Below are the most popular herbs and spices to have in your kitchen.
Garlic is one of my favourite and is so versatile. I add it to so many dishes such as soups, stews, curries, broth, fermented vegetables, mash, eggs, mayonnaise. Garlic has been used for centuries for both food and medicine. It’s extremely rich in anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties. It also contains manganese, Vitamins B6, C, selenium, calcium, copper, potassium and phosphorous. Garlic boosts the immune system, reduces blood pressure and aids the body’s natural detoxification process.
Ginger can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s a beneficial food to add to dishes as it helps to warm the body, relieves nausea and motion sickness, lowers inflammation and pain, improves diabetes, eases headaches, eliminates gas, helps to cleanse the lymphatic system and can also break down accumulating toxins in the body. I love adding ginger to raw slices, bliss balls, ice-cream, smoothies, stews, curries and to make tea.
3. Black Pepper
Black pepper helps to relieve indigestion, prevents intestinal gas, is a diuretic, contains anti-bacterial properties and also helps to stimulate the breakdown of fat cells. It is also a great source of vitamin K, copper, chromium, calcium and manganese. You can add it to savoury dishes, sprinkle it on eggs, sautéed greens, fish, meats and more.
Paprika helps to regulate blood pressure, its antibacterial, rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and improves circulation. It’s also rich in antioxidants, prevents hair loss and also contains vitamins A, E, B6, C and iron. Paprika is delicious sprinkled over scrambled or fried eggs.
Cumin is one of my favourite herbs which I add to so many dishes. Cumin is great for pregnant and lactating mothers, as it’s rich in iron, helps to alleviate nausea and morning sickness, improves kidney function and aids in liver detoxification. Cumin also boosts the immune system, promotes a healthy metabolism, reduces flatulence, is a blood purifier and a great remedy for insomnia. I love adding 1 tbsp of cumin seeds to this fermented vegetable recipe to add a beautiful and unique taste and aroma.
Coriander is rich in folate, Vitamins B6, C, A, K, iron and manganese. The leaves, roots and seeds can be used in cooking and it’s a great herb to add into your curries. It contains anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and anti-microbial properties as well as helping to control blood sugar levels so is great for diabetics. Fresh coriander is great for making pesto’s as it has an amazing ability to aid the body to naturally detox and chelates heavy metals from the body.
Turmeric is one of the most researched plants in the world, and it’s not surprising because of the many health benefits it contains. Turmeric is a natural antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, improves digestion, speeds up wound healing, helps purify the blood, helps prevent gas and bloating, heals stomach ulcers, improves the skin, aids in fat metabolism and much more. If you want to get the most out of turmeric it needs to be eaten with a source of fat, as turmeric is fat soluble, along with black pepper, which improves the absorption. You could add turmeric, a pinch of black pepper and coconut milk or oil to a curry, or make golden milk or even a smoothie or chia pudding with the addition of seasonal fruits.
Cinnamon is a very versatile spice as it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. You can use it in curries, soups, stews, marinades, cakes, muesli, cookies, gummies, pancakes, nut butter, panna cottas and many more dishes. Cinnamon is so beneficial, it’s not only anti-inflammatory, it helps fight diabetes, it’s immune boosting, contains loads of antioxidants, is anti-microbial, helps defend against cognitive decline, prevents candida and even contains calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, vitamin K and fibre.
Rosemary helps to nourish a flaky and dry scalp, helps prevent liver diseases, gastritis, asthma and migraines. It also helps to elevate mood, is anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, is an immune booster and helps to improves memory. Rosemary can be added to chicken soups, pasta sauces, sprinkled over roast vegetables added to soups and many more dishes.
Thyme helps to relax respiratory muscles and has been used for a natural cough remedy, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity and mood, is anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, repels pests and is also a good source of copper and manganese.
Sage helps to treat and reduce oily hair, scalp infections and dandruff. It also has antiseptic, anti-microbial, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory properties and is antioxidant rich. Sage helps to enhance memory and stimulates brain function, boosts immunity, aids in keeping skin healthy, managing diabetes and helps improve digestion. You can fry sage in butter or coconut oil until crispy and serve on top of freshly cooked seafood for a delicious and nutritious option.
I love basil so much I make a pesto out of it weekly. Basil helps to sharpen memory, its antibacterial and anti-viral so combats colds and flus, infections, phlegm and mucous, is an anti-inflammatory and has anti-stress properties. Basil reduces pain, prevents diabetes, is rich in antioxidants, helps to protect the liver and has been used to help with digestive disorders.
Chillies are a great source of antioxidants and minerals such as – potassium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Chillies have antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic properties. They also act as a natural pain relief, clear congestion, fight inflammation and have many cardiovascular benefits.
Parsley is rich in nutrients like chlorophyll so it has the ability to help cleanse the blood, liver and kidneys. Parsley also contains anti-inflammatory properties and can even act as a hair tonic for those who suffer from thin and dandruff prone hair.
Mint can help with stomach aches, flatulence, poor digestion, fever, hiccups, sinus issues and ear aches. It also aids in the body’s natural detoxification process, helps to combat bad breath and is also a blood cleanser. I love adding fresh mint to pesto, smoothies, juices, salads, fruit salads, water and desserts.
I hope this information has inspired you to branch out from just using salt, cheese or soy sauce to flavour your meals.
I encourage you to get creative by mixing and pairing your herbs and spices into delicious creations. You will also have the added bonus of many incredible health benefits too.
Happy Changing Habits
Changing Habits Nutritionist