Take Your Food Further with Herbs and Spices

This month we celebrate National Nutrition Month with the theme Go Further with Food. Let’s look at ways to not only make our food taste better but to work harder for us by adding herbs and spices. A recent study from the Nutrition Journal that analyzed the antioxidant content of over  3,000 foods in the U.S. food supply found that many herbs and spices provide more antioxidants than numerous antioxidant-containing foods. When it comes to preventing disease such as cancer and heart disease, antioxidants play a key role. Herbs and spices are also a healthy alternative to salt when it comes to enhancing the flavor of your meals and an excellent way to add pizzazz to meals. Yet, for some, cooking with herbs and spices can be intimidating. Try these popular spices to get started on adding taste and nutrition to your plate.

Turmeric is a popular spice in Indian cuisine. Its bright yellow color gives a gorgeous hue to food, and according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it can help with ailments from arthritis to digestive issues. Take advantage of these benefits by heating up a mug of Golden Milk, or for a protein-packed snack, mix up a batch of Indian Spice Greek Yogurt Dip. In addition to turmeric, the dip also contains garlic and paprika, spices that have both been shown to decrease blood pressure and boost immunity.

Oregano is an herb used in many Italian and Greek dishes. It also ranked among the top 50 most concentrated antioxidant powerhouses. Just 1 teaspoon has more antioxidants than a whole bar of chocolate. These antioxidants may help fight off bacteria and viruses, potentially reduce the growth of cancer cells, and help alleviate inflammation.

The herb dressing used to top this Sirloin Pita Salad Sandwich features oregano. As an added bonus, instead of mayo, the dressing is also made with fat-free plain yogurt, saving you calories while providing protein.

Cumin, a spice often included in Mexican meals, can help jump start weight loss, decrease body fat, and improve unhealthy cholesterol levels naturally. Researchers believe that, like other hot spices, cumin can temporarily increase metabolic rate, and it is rich in phytosterols, plant chemicals known to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the body.

For a twist on traditional guacamole, try this Cheesy Guacamole made with cumin and pureed cottage cheese. It’s a great option if you’re lactose intolerant because this recipe actually uses lactose-free cottage cheese, which contains the same essential nutrients as conventional cottage cheese minus lactose.

For more ideas on how to spice up your meals, check out our other dairy recipes.

Southeast Dairy Association - Laura MarburyLaura Marbury, MS, RDN, LD