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Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices add more than layered flavor to food, many are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some are involved in studies to show how they help us resist diseases and aging. Never underestimate the power a good spice can bring to a recipe.

Table sugar is not included in this list. It is not a spice or herb and has been stripped and processed until it no longer resembles the original sugar cane.

Anise – Sweet and aromatic seeds with a licorice-like flavor. Anise is rich in antioxidants and an excellent source of B vitamins. They are also a good source of calcium, copper, iron, potassium, manganese, zinc, and magnesium. Used in savory and sweet dishes alike.

Basil – Contains a large amount of beta carotene and other antioxidants, vitamin K, iron, and essential oils that fight inflammation and infection. Often used in tomato based sauces and soups, but also adds flavor to salads.

Bay – Fresh leaves are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and folic acid along with many healthy minerals. The dried versions may have less of these nutrients, but still add a subtle flavor to soups, sauces, and rice dishes.

Black Pepper – Pepper corns come from the dried berries of a perennial vine and have a strong spicy flavor. Pepper increases digestive power and motility, and the absorption of other nutrients. Pepper is also rich in many types of antioxidants. Used to flavor almost any savory dish.

Caraway – A member of the same family as parsley and used as a staple spice in the savory dishes of European meals. Caraway seeds are a rich source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Used in cabbage soups, sauerkraut, salads, and savory breads or biscuits.

Celery – Very low calorie plant. The stalks are often used in cooking, but the leaves are also an excellent addition to recipes as a salt substitute or to add flavor and texture to salads. A rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, sodium, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.

Celery Seed – Even lower in calories than the leaves, the essential oils of the celery plant are also concentrated in the seeds. These seeds are rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants. Use as a low sodium salt replacement and to bring out the flavor of sauces, soups, and even pickling.

Chili Pepper – Capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their spicy, pungent flavor, has antibacterial and analgesic properties. It also may fight cancer, diabetes, and lower cholesterol. Peppers are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium. Peppers such as cayenne can be used fresh, dried, crushed, or ground to add kick to spicy dishes. They can be added to less spicy foods in small amounts too for added flavor and a mild warming sensation.

Chives – These low calorie leaves have a mild onion taste. Like onions and garlic, chives are full of sulfur antioxidants that lower cholesterol, softens stiffened blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure. These sulfur compounds also have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Chives are also a rich source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and B vitamins. Chives lend themselves well to almost any savory dish, raw or cooked.

Cilantro – Also called coriander in Asia, cilantro provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals to savory dishes. It is exceptionally high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A.

Cinnamon – This spicy, warm, fragrant bark is an antioxidant powerhouse. Cinnamon is the strongest antioxidant source found in nature and is also a rich provider of minerals. It is used mainly in sweet recipes, but can be added to savory dishes in small amounts too.

Cloves – The flower buds of an evergreen tree, cloves have powerful antioxidant, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and warming properties. Cloves also improve digestion. Cloves are usually ground and used in teas, soups, sauces, and curries. The essential oil alleviates toothaches too.

Coriander Seeds – The seeds of cilantro, coriander is exceptionally rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. They are also a good source of omega fatty acids. Usually used in marinades, curry, chutneys, confectionary, vegetable stews, pickling, and sweet breads.

Cumin – These well-known, fragrant seeds are used throughout the world for their spicy flavor. They can be ground or used whole. Cumin seeds improve digestion and are rich in antioxidants. These seeds are used in soups, sauces, curry, pickling, and sautéed vegetables.

Dill – The main spice used in pickling, dill has a distinct flavor. Their leaves and seeds are used as a spice. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. The leaves are used in salads, soups, and to enhance the flavor of vegetable dishes. The seeds are used in savory dishes and in pickling.

Fennel – This plant has a subtle licorice flavor that mellows even further when cooked. The bulbous base of the plant is treated like a vegetable while the frond-like leaves and stems work well sautéed in vegetable dishes or raw in salads. The leaves can also be snipped over food just before serving as a garnish and flavor enhancer. The seeds are used in sweet and savory dishes alike. Fennel is rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and dietary fiber.

Fenugreek – A bitter spice with a smoky caramel aftertaste, fenugreek adds complexity to dishes. It loses bitterness when cooked. Fenugreek provides high levels of copper, iron, and fiber. Fenugreek may help lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar. Used in small quantities in curry and as sprouts in salads, stir-fries, pastes, or fillings.

Garlic – One of the most popular spices, garlic is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, and manganese. This spice is full of infection fighting sulfur compounds and helps with cholesterol levels. Garlic also has some antifungal and antibacterial properties. It goes well crushed, grated, or chopped into most savory dishes including soups, sauces, pasta, vegetables, stir-fry, and rubbed on grilled or toasted bread as paste. Roasting garlic makes it soft and mellows and sweetens the flavor.

Ginger – Ginger is the rhizome of a small herb plant and packs a lot of flavor. Gingerols, the active component in ginger, have painkilling, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects. It can reduce nausea cause by motion sickness and pregnancy and may relieve migraines. Ginger is often used as tea or beverage flavoring. It also works well in sweet and savory dishes.

Lemongrass – This citrus flavored herb has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is an excellent source of iron and manganese and a good source of folic acid. The leaves are chopped to add a delicate citrus flavor to savory soups, sauces, marinades, curries, and even pickles. It can also be made into a pleasant lemony tea.

Marjoram – A common Mediterranean herb, marjoram has a milder flavor than oregano. This herb is rich in dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Marjoram adds a semi-sweet aromatic flavor to soups, salads, salad dressings, sauces, pasta, and vegetable dishes.

Mint – This sweet fresh herb is a great source of vitamin A, iron, copper, and manganese. It also has beneficial effects on the digestive system, helping relieve nausea and even hiccups. It also freshens breathe. Used topically, it has analgesic, anesthetic, and anti-irritant properties. Fresh leaves go well in salads, fruit or vegetable. They can also be brewed as tea or added to many sweet recipes for a mild minty flavor.

Mustard Seeds – These seeds come in yellow, brown, and black and have a spicy pungent flavor that has found its way into many condiments. These seeds are also a great source of vitamin E, vitamin B1, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc. It is mainly used as a paste condiment, but it can also add a kick to pasta dishes and pickling.

Nutmeg – Comes from the hard seed of an evergreen tree found in Indonesian rain forests. Nutmeg is best grated fresh from the whole seed. It is rich in antioxidants and essential oils that have pain relieving abilities and beneficial effects on the digestive system. Nutmeg is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, copper, and manganese. It works well with savory or sweet dishes, enhancing the flavor of other spices and foods. Use it in confectionary, desserts, soups, sauces, and marinades.

Onion – Like leeks and garlic, onion is full of infection and inflammation fighting sulfur compounds that may lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Onion is one of the most used spices, found powdered, dried, and available fresh. Use it in savory dishes like dips, salads, spreads, soups, marinades, and stir-fry. Onions are a good source of vitamin C, B6, chromium, and calcium. They also have phytonutrients that may inhibit cancer growth.

Oregano – This herb has a sweet spicy flavor with a hint of bitterness that makes it perfect for sauces, soups, salads, marinades, pickling, or practically any recipe using tomatoes. The phytonutrients and essential oils of oregano have antimicrobial, warming, antispasmodic, and antiseptic properties. It is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, copper, iron, and manganese.

Paprika – This spice comes from dried and ground sweet red peppers. It usually does not have the spicy nature of most chili powders and helps bring out the flavors of other spices and foods. Paprika may have beneficial effects on circulation and blood pressure, and has some antibacterial properties. It is a rich source of vitamin C. Paprika adds color and flavor to soups, marinades, roasted vegetables, or as a garnish. It can also be mixed with other herbs like thyme and sprinkled over popcorn.

Parsley – Another well-known Mediterranean herb, parsley is also an antioxidant powerhouse. Parsley has some antiseptic and anesthetic properties and may help control blood sugar levels. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and iron. Use parsley in savory dishes as a garnish or to add flavor to pasta, sauces, soups, marinades, and sautéed or roasted vegetables.

Rosemary – Studies have recently shown that the scent of rosemary improves cognitive function and memory, but this woody herb does even more. The essential oils and phytonutrients in rosemary act as antioxidants and have anti-allergy, antifungal, anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. Rosemary is also a good source of dietary fiber, iron, and vitamin A. This herb works well with tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplant, turnips, and potatoes. Use it in soups, salads, and with baked vegetables.

Sage – The essential oils of this herb have counter-irritant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antifungal and antiseptic properties. Sage has an earthy, pungent flavor that works well with complex carbohydrates like potatoes, turnips, beans, and brown rice. Sage also is a great source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, and iron.

Tarragon – A prized herb in French cooking, tarragon has a fresh, semi-sweet, peppery flavor with hints of anise. It can be used fresh in salads or to enhance the flavor of savory sauces, vegetable dishes, or breads. Tarragon is an excellent source of vitamin B2, B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. The essential oils in tarragon may also prevent blood clots from forming and damaging the heart and brain.

Thyme – Thyme has a bright, peppery flavor with hints of citrus. This herb is packed with antioxidants and is one of the best herbs for antioxidant power. It is also a great source of iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A. The essential oils of thyme have antifungal and antiseptic properties. It can be used as a tea or to flavor marinades, soups, and sauces.

Turmeric – This spice is often found in curry and gives mustard that bright yellow hue. Turmeric comes from a rhizome and is related to ginger. It contains powerful antioxidants and may also prevent and inhibit cancer growth, lower cholesterol, and improve digestion. Turmeric is a good source of fiber and an excellent source of B6, iron, and manganese. It works well with other spicy herbs and spices in curry, soups, vegetable dishes, and in pickling.

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