Good cooks already know how important spices are in meal preparation. But not only do herbs and spices make foods taste better, they may help you live longer and healthier. So says a whole slew of experts, including Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen (the "You" doctors), Dr. Andrew Weil (a proponent of integrative medicine) and Alison Gernand (from the University of Texas School of Public Health). Studies show that adding spices to a diet helps to ward off disease, regulates cholesterol and blood pressure and prevents upset stomach and other ailments.
So to prepare savory dishes at home, be sure to keep plenty of these healthy spices in a well-stocked kitchen. Think of it as inexpensive, preventative medicine:
1) Garlic – Good in meat, vegetables, soups and salads. Lowers blood pressure and is good for your heart.
2) Onion – Also versatile in cooking. An onion is a heart-friendly vegetable used as a spice. It fights cancer, relieves colds and clears your respiratory system.
3) Parsley – High in vitamin C and iron. Parsley fights lung cancer and protects you against aging and rheumatoid arthritis.
5) Rosemary – Good for your eyes; it may reduce the risk of developing cataracts.
6) Thyme – Soothes coughs and has antiseptic properties.
7) Cinnamon – Helps to lower cholesterol, blood sugar and keeps metabolism in check for healthy weight control.
8) Nutmeg – Relieves nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Fights insomnia. Lowers blood pressure, increases circulation and reduces joint pain.
9) Allspice – You will taste hints of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It relieves bloating and muscle aches.
10) Clove – Has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. Eliminates intestinal parasites and bacteria.
11) Ginger – Boosts the immune system, fights colds, soothes upset stomach, relieves gas and is good for your heart.
12) Bay Leaves – High in vitamins A and C. Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
13) Turmeric – Used in Indian dishes, it has anti-aging properties and fights prostate cancer.
14) Cilantro [aka coriander] – Protects against urinary tract infections.
15) Crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika – Excellent source of anti-oxidants. Red peppers contain capsaicin, a natural inflammation reducer. They may help you lose weight also.
You might also pick up basil, tarragon, sage, cardamom pods and star anise. Although I prefer fresh herbs and spices, I substitute dried for convenience. After you have a well-stocked spice rack, try making this delicious and easy treat:
Authentic Masala Chai
6 cups water
1 inch-thick slice of fresh ginger, smashed with the side of your knife
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, or ½ teaspoon ground pepper
10 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods, crushed
2 star anise
8 black tea bags (or 8 teaspoons of loose black tea)
2 cups milk
½ cup honey
1. Combine the first 8 ingredients and bring to a boil.
2. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat and let the spices steep for 10 more minutes.
4. Next throw in the tea bags and steep for another 3-5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, and strain the solid spices from the chai. This mixture can be stored in the refrigerator.