10 Herbs and Spices that Have Huge Health Benefits
One of the tastiest ways to improve our diet diversity and increase the nutrients we eat is to make them more flavorful! Indeed, knowing how healthy herbs and spices can be is a big boon to not only our nutrition levels but to how delicious our recipes can be.
So, which healthy herbs and spices offer the biggest benefits?
Healthy Herbs and Spices with Huge Benefits
Due to its unique and versatile flavor profile, cinnamon is one of the most commonly used spices worldwide. But that’s not the only reason to include plenty of cinnamon in your diet. It’s also been linked to improvements in blood sugar and cholesterol to help support heart health. 1, 2 It may also help fight off infections and help support healthy levels of inflammation. 3 It also adds sweetness without any added sugar. So, it’s worth sprinkling generously on your favorite dishes, from protein-rich Greek yogurt to oatmeal to stews, chilis, meat rubs, or even your morning (or early afternoon) coffee.
No, cocoa isn’t just for cake or hot chocolate; it can also be used as a spice with big benefits. Unsweetened cocoa is rich in flavonoids (polyphenols) that have been shown to support heart health and even a balanced immune system. They may also help lower elevated cholesterol levels. 4, 5 Cocoa isn’t just for dessert. It can also enhance the flavor of savory and spicy dishes. Who knows? Cocoa could become your special secret ingredient for chili, a creamy fruit dip with Greek yogurt or hummus, and mole (of course).
Turmeric, which provides the powerful antioxidant curcumin, is one of the most popular spices worldwide. It adds a grounding, earthy flavor that’s especially popular in curries (as the main ingredient). Research also indicates its potent potential health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 6, 7 Studies even link turmeric to a decrease in weight, BMI, and waist circumference. 8 In addition to including it in traditional curry recipes, turmeric can also help flavor everything from scrambled eggs to potatoes to pancakes, meats, rice, vegetables, Golden milk, fire cider, and refreshing summer drinks and smoothies.
Rosemary has long been known for its impact on memory and is even mentioned by Shakespeare: “There’s rosemary; that’s for remembrance” is a line in Hamlet. Indeed, the aroma of rosemary oil has been shown in studies to positively affect cognitive performance. 9 Rosemary also has antioxidant properties and has been studied for its potential to protect the brain. 10 Rosemary is a tasty addition to chicken, salmon, pasta, potato, and salad dishes.
Ginger is another popular healthy herb and spice known for bigger benefits than just the cookie it’s famous for. It helps relieve nausea from pregnancy, medications, and motion sickness and may help soothe pain from arthritis, headaches, or sore muscles. 11, 12 Due to the gingerols found in ginger, it may also support healthy levels of inflammation. 13 Sip on some soothing ginger tea, add it to an immune-boosting smoothie, or include it in recipes from fish to fresh juices, stir-fries, homemade salad dressing, baked goods, and more.
Peppermint has a long history of potential benefits. From ancient Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman times, mint has been used to help ease symptoms from colds, headaches, and digestive ills. It may also help boost mood and focus. 14 While many people only think of peppermint for teas, candy canes, and mojitos or mint juleps, fresh peppermint leaves can add a lot of flavor and nutrients to a variety of dishes from Tabbouleh to salads to tzatziki sauce, stews, pasta, popsicles, and more.
Garlic is one of the most popular herbs and spices used by cooks worldwide. It has a strong smell and potent flavor that many love and others fear (due to its negative effect on the breath of ordinary people and the life of vampires 😊). Unless on a first date, there’s a good reason to enjoy the flavorful cloves as garlic may help protect the heart by keeping arteries more flexible and youthful. 15, 16 Because it’s included in so many Mediterranean diet recipes, it may be one of the reasons this diet is so highly recommended by doctors and dietitians. Looking for more recipes that are full of garlic? How about Italian gravy, fire cider, shrimp scampi, or roasted cauliflower?
8. Cayenne (chili) Pepper
Cayenne (chili) pepper is popular in Mexican, Creole, Cajun, and Southwestern American cuisines. The heat of many of these popular peppers comes from a compound called capsaicin. Interestingly, there’s also good research showing capsaicin can help relieve pain by reducing the pain signals sent to the brain. While capsaicin creams are generally recommended to alleviate joint and muscle pain, 17 eating some spicy cayenne pepper foods has also been shown to have big benefits. This includes reducing internal pain caused by ulcers. 18 Due to all of the big benefits of one of the most popular herbs and spices, there are plenty of tasty recipes included on our own blog from appetizers to chili to steaks to Nashville Hot Chicken.
Cardamon is both spicy and sweet and can be found in chia, iced coffee, pumpkin spice mix, and some popular Indian dishes like cardamom chicken, curries, and soups. It’s so popular, it’s even been called the “queen of spices.” It’s also been shown to help if you have an upset stomach and may also support healthy levels of inflammation. It may also help support a strong metabolism. 19
10. Black Pepper
Black Pepper, along with salt, has to be the most commonly used spice. It also has health benefits, such as stimulating digestive enzymes to help the body absorb more nutrients. 20 Black pepper also appears to have antioxidant properties. 21 Grab the peppercorn grinder and generously add black pepper to a variety of dishes—salads and soups, meats and fish, and grain dishes can all benefit, and so can your overall health.
To be honest, the above healthy herbs and spices are hardly the only ones worth adding to your diet. Others that have big health (and flavor) benefits include:
- Basil, especially holy or hot basil
So, no matter what your flavor preference, adding any herbs and spices to your new meal is a great way to make your meal tastier and healthier!