Written by Andrea Manitsas
A pinch of this, a dash of that and a teaspoon of the other; we all know how our culinary woes can go from bleak and bland to complex, fragrant and flavorful with just the right combo. It's the power of herbs and spices. But these plants – whether fresh or dried – do more than infuse life into our meals: they have incredible health benefits too.
Sure, herbs and spices add flavor without the fat, salt or sugar, but many do so with a high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. We've picked our five favorites for Fall, and we're fetching them for the forefront of our own kitchens. You?
- Cinnamon Though you probably don't know it, there are more than 100 varieties of this fragrant, mildly sweet spice that reminds us all of the holiday season. But cinnamon boasts far more than nostalgia: It's rife with anti-aging antioxidants and has shown promise in reducing blood sugar in those with diabetes and in lowering cholesterol. It also contains manganese, dietary fiber and iron — all typically lacking in our diets.
- Turmeric This brilliantly yellow spice is commonly found in curry powder and contains high concentrations of the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory curcumin, which can potentially inhibit tumor growth and help treat rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis. Curcumin has also been associated with a reduced risk of childhood leukemia, improved liver function and even protection against Alzheimer's disease. Pumpkin curry anyone?
- Rosemary We all know and love the scent of this herb wafting from the oven, but it's also a powerhouse of anti-aging, anti-cancer substances that help out with many an ailment. It's useful for stimulating the immune system, circulation and digestion, plus reducing the severity of asthma attacks and can also increase blood flow to the head and brain, improving concentration.
- Ginger Crazy but true: One teaspoon of ginger has similar antioxidant levels as one cup of spinach! And is a great source of potassium. Ginger has been shown to ease motion sickness with its nausea-fighting properties (also helpful for those undergoing chemo) and is always prescribed for an upset stomach of any kind. Gingerols, compounds found in ginger, are said to thin the blood and help reduce pain like aspirin does. Try a Morning Ginger Power Shot in lieu of coffee.
- Paprika This milder version of chili is rich in beta-carotene and is showing promise for enhancing metabolism, increasing satiety and potentially stimulating fat burning. It contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer. Vegetarian Chili in the house!