The journey to weightloss can be challenging as we seek to find the right diet best suited for our metabolism. Often times we are asked to eliminate some flavorful foods that tickle our tongue but add nothing to our health.

Does that mean our diets must be bland and boring, foregoing flavor in leiu of healthy benefits?

Not if we learn to tap into and take advantage of nature’s bounty of herbs and spices, many that can be grown simply and cheaply right at home. As our major flavor enhancers, they’ve been relied upon throughout the ages to change boring dishs/foods to something exotic and exciting. 

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are food flavor enhancers that can be traced back to prehistoric times. Their versatility offers delicious and aromatic variety to all food varities putting them in high demand globally. Because of this, they were often used as currency/trade throughout past centuries.

Herbs and spices are types of seasonings and oftentimes used interchangeably. However, they are actually two very different types of seasonings.  Their differences occur due to the plant species they originate from as well as the area or segment of the plant.

So, how do we distinguish a spice from an herb?

Spices originate from the roots, seed, fruit, stem, flower or even bark of a plant or tree while herbs are the leafy, green section of the plant. Sometimes one plant can be host to both and herb and spice simultaneously.

Herbs can be used chopped up or whole in fresh or dried form. Spices are obtained from the crushed portions of plants and tend to offer stronger flavors than herbs.

Highly valued for their medicinal properties and their ability to help preserve stored foods, herbs and spices were used medicinally long before entering the culinary world of food.

Now, modern science picks up the ball and helps us understand at a deeper level the powerful medicinal uses that herbs and spices provide for us. Many important antioxidants (warriors that protect us against free radicals) that help fight inflammation and other health conditions come directly from the herbs and spices we consume.

Chronic inflammation is debilitating. It results in nearly all chronic western diseases including cancer, heart disease – the world’s number 1 killer, and Alzheimer’s, the disease that steals the minds of its victim and the hearts of those that love them.

Why not take advantage of nature’s bounty and boost the health marker for all foods – 

Herbs and spices to our aide:

Cinnamon –

A favorite spice in most households because of its versatility, easily shifting from savory to sweet dishes, from baked to raw with a blink of an eye. This reddish spice is a potent antioxidant that not only fights inflammation but helps to reduce cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides in the blood. Additional benefits include being highly valued for its ability to lower blood sugar levels by raising insulin sensitivity and breaking down carbs in the digestive track.

Turmeric –

A medicinal spice that not only flavors foods but is aromatic and colorful giving dishes such as curry their deep yellow color. It contains important compounds such as curcumin, a powerful antioxidant related to a vast array of health benefits.

It fights oxidative damage while boosting the body’s production of antioxidant enzymes. Oxidative damage is a powerful player behind many diseases and premature aging so it’s easy to understand why turmeric is considered by many to be the best nutritional supplement available to us. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that can even match the power of many anti-inflammatory drugs but without side-effects.

Ginger –

Another very common household spice, ginger is a power health aide and very successful in treating nausea caused by sea sickness, chemotherapy and even morning sickness. It offers strong anti-inflammatory properties and is empowered to reduce pain levels.

Cayenne pepper –

Spicy dishes often are the result of this type of chili pepper. The active ingredient, capsaicin is empowered to increase fat burning while reducing appetite – great for those on diets. Although not yet proven on humans, studies done on animals show that this spice also combats certain cancers such as liver, lung and prostate cancer.

Rosemary –

Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb that is easily grown in any home garden or as a window plant and often used in cooking. It is a member of the mint family providing calcium, iron and vitamin B-6. It has been used since ancient times to alleviate muscle pain while boosting immunity and digestion, increasing memory and has even been used to promote hair growth.

Oregano –

Is another popular and easily home-grown herb, it is a staple in most worldwide cuisines that brings subtle sweetness and warmth to many dishes. Rich with antioxidants (empowered to help reduce inflammation), it offers positive medicinal properties including helping alleviate respiratory tract issues, menstrual cramps and urinary tract disorders and has even been shown in studies to help kill cancer cells. It has also proven itself to be an effective anti-bacterial as well.

Parsley –

This popular bright green flowering plant offers a mild but bitter flavor and is considered a powerful disease fighting herb. Known to offer many antioxidants such as Vitamin C, carotenoids (beta carotene and lutein) and flavonoids, it is rich in vitamins A and K, needed for blood clotting and bone health. Although most herbs are valued best when fresh, dried parsley is proving higher in antioxidants when used dried, having as much as 17 times more antioxidant power than fresh parsley.

Outside of their outstanding medicinal properties, herbs and spices are invaluable in food preparation. Just one snip of a fresh herb is empowered to kick up the flavor and appearance of any dish so don’t limit yourself to just one. For the best variety of flavors and medicinal benefits, try combining them.

Treat herbs gently. They are best if used when a dish is nearly done cooking and/or they can be sprinkled directly on dishes before serving for a brighter, more appealing look.

Whether you’re looking to boost the flavor, color or appearance of your favorite recipes or you are seeking health benefits, herbs and spices are truly one of nature’s greatest and most abundant gifts.

Check out – “Healthy Self Healing” a treasured guide to help get you on and stay on the right health and fitness track.

For more tools and resources (including awesome raw foods dessert recipes) from Carolyn Hansen to assist you in attaining your health and fitness goals please visit:

Carolyn Hansen Fitness