Cooking without spices is like having a dance party without music; The two just must go together. Aside from adding tons of flavor to any dish you’re whipping up, spices are a low-calorie (usually zero-calorie) way to add a little extra zest to your favorite food. Experimenting with different spices can help your taste buds decide which ones go well together and which ones are better on their own. And to boot, there are tons of health benefits that come with many commonly used spices. Even spices as simple as salt and pepper can do a body good.
Today I’ll be telling you a bit about those benefits, so take a peek below and get ready to get spicy…
- Himalayan Salt
I loved Himalayan salt for its gorgeous pink color before I even knew of all the health benefits it has. Whereas most common table salts are stripped of any extra minerals, these light pink crystals are naturally full of minerals and iron. In fact, they come packed with over 80 minerals and elements that have shown to create an electrolyte balance within your body, strengthen bones, lower blood pressure, and improve circulation, to name a few (Fit Life). Himalayan salt is also lower in sodium than regular table salt, so it’s a much healthier choice. I use it in place of table salt on everything—from scrambled eggs to grilled chicken.
- Black Pepper
Black pepper is so commonly used that you probably wouldn’t even think it has health benefits. But it sure does! The little kick you taste when you eat something that has black pepper actually helps to improve your digestion. Black pepper has also shown to have antioxidant and antibiotic benefits, not to mention it tastes wonderful on almost everything. So, don’t be afraid to add a little shake of black pepper at your next meal.
Cinnamon is one of my favorite healthy spices to add to almost every sweet treat. I put it in mycoffee, my overnight oats, and even in smoothies for an extra kick. This spice can lower your blood sugar and your cholesterol. In fact, cinnamon was used in ancient Chinese medicine for its antioxidant properties. To reap these benefits, try to eat ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day
It took me a while to like the taste of ginger, but now I swear that it makes everything better. I love how ginger adds a sweet-but-spicy kick to my sushi, green juices, and smoothies. It has a strong smell and taste, but it can work wonders on an upset stomach or indigestion. Chewing on a little bit of raw ginger can even help relieve sore joints. If haven’t quite gotten used to the taste yet, try it in a smoothie first.
Turmeric is one of my favorite ingredients to add to my fresh squeezed juices because it adds a little zing to the flavor. It has the spiciness of ginger without the sweetness, and it comes with a long list of health benefits. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, “has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses,” according to a review in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. If that doesn’t make you crave this orange-yellow spice, I don’t know what will.
This bright red spice is often used more for garnish than for taste, but it has a warm, spicy flavor. Even if you are just using it to add a touch of color to a dish, its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help prevent cancer. Plus, it has high levels of vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight and helps strengthen bones. Paprika goes great with any potato dishes and deviled eggs, too.
Cumin has a strong flavor and smell, and it acts as a great replacement for salt. In the past, cumin was added to foods to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It has also been shown to have antibacterial qualities, and the levels of vitamin B can even help improve your sleep. I love adding cumin to soups, hummus, and Mexican food.
Saffron may be one of the most expensive spices out there, but it’s also one of my favorites. This red spice will turn any food bright yellow (like Lauren’s naturally dyed Easter eggs), and add a ton of flavor too. Did I mention that this spice comes with a long list of health benefits, from aiding digestion to reducing inflammation to helping with depression? It’s also known for it’s ability to beautify your skin. Making a saffron facemask can help clear up acne and blemishes, brighten dull skin, and give you a glow.
Cardamom, a spice usually found in Indian cuisine, has so many health benefits that it is seen in some cultures as a natural medicine for ulcers, digestive problems, and even depression. Eating this spice will help to detoxify your kidneys, fight a cold or flu, and even to cure hiccups. I love the flavor of cardamom in chicken curry and Vietnamese pho noodle soup.
- Cayenne Pepper
This strong spice has a definite kick and powerful health benefits, too. Besides having major cleansing and detoxifying powers, cayenne pepper also helps to stimulate circulation, neutralize acidity in your body’s Ph levels, and can even help with migraines. The list goes on and on—from flu relief to anti-allergy powers to metabolism boosting. I love cayenne pepper on tacos, Cajun food, and even in my lemonade!