Nutrition in spice? You bet – One of the simplest ways to add more nutrition and antioxidant power to your diet is through the power of spice. Using as little as ½ teaspoon of certain spices can help lay a healthy nutritional foundation rich in antioxidants. We most often think of fruits and vegetables as having large amounts of antioxidants, but if you’re not adding spices to your recipes on a regular basis, it may be time to start.
What is an antioxidant?
Antioxidants work by significantly slowing or preventing the oxidative – or damage from oxygen – process caused by substances called free radicals. Free radicals can lead to cell dysfunction and the onset of problems like heart disease and diabetes. Antioxidants may also improve immune function and lower your risk for infection and cancer.
According to the McCormick science institute spices ranked highest in antioxidant compounds are: ground cloves, cinnamon, mustard seed, dried oregano, turmeric, basil, curry powder, paprika, chili powder, and parsley leaves.
Nutrition in Spice?
Nutrition Tips on adding delicious spice to your meals:
- Cloves – They have a warming, sweet and spicy taste that may just as well be suited to a curry, marinade or stew, as to a savory apple pie. For a trustworthy herbal toothache remedy use clove oil.
- Cinnamon – Sprinkle it on hot and cold cereals, in coffee, tea, or as a part of puddings and baked goods. Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks.
- Mustard seed – Most commonly used in Indian dishes, add them to hot oil in stir- frys until they pop. The whole seeds are frequently found in dark deli mustards. Dry mustard can be used in BBQ ribs, meatloaf, crabcakes and seafood salads.
- Dried Oregano – Best known for its role in Italian dishes and pizza sauce, use oregano in salad dressings, omelettes, and add to salsas and grilled meats. Crush in the palm of your hand to release flavor. One tablespoon of dried oregano has the same amount of antioxidant value as 3 ½ pieces of dark chocolate. Now that’s a hard call!
- Turmeric – Often the base of Indian and Thai dishes, turmeric is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and arthritis. With its almost peppery flavor and bright color, it can be added to rice dishes, lentils, or beans.
- Basil – Known for its role in Italian dishes and pesto, fresh basil can also be used as a tonic to aid in digestion. Just steep the leaves in water to make a tea. When using basil, don’t chop the leaves, but tear them instead for the most flavor, and to avoid blackening.
- Curry powder – Curry powder is actually a pulverized blend of up to 20 spices, herbs and seeds. Among those most commonly used are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, red and black pepper, and turmeric. Popular in soups and stews, try adding to everyday foods such as tuna or fruit salad for a different spin. Curry is also good with ground meats, such as lamb, beef, or chicken or turkey.
- Paprika – Often overlooked by cooks, except for the occasional potato salad, this interesting spice is made from grinding the dried pods of mild pepper plants. If you haven’t tried the smoked variety you need to. It will give your taste buds a jolt without too much heat. Add to barbeque sauces, and chicken dishes.
- Chili powder – Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which gives peppers their characteristic pungency, producing mild to intense heat when eaten. Extensive research shows that capsaicin is an effective treatment for the pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. Turn up the heat with cayenne in any dish, or sprinkle in with your cornbread recipe.
- Parsley leaves – Add dried parsley to any sauce, soup, or rice dish to liven it up. It is rich in antioxidant compounds called flavonoids, and it also helps to improve the antioxidant capacity of the blood.
Maybe it’s time to start that herb garden you’ve been thinking about. In the ground, in pots, or if you just have a sunny kitchen window — the sky’s the limit. Having fresh herbs at your fingertips will go a long way in creating savory summer dishes you will be proud of. What you don’t use you can easily dry.
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Check out this video on how to dry fresh herbs:
How to store dried herbs and spices:
Store dried herbs in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark place, away from sunlight. Ziplocs and vacuum sealers work well. Some dried herbs can keep for years but for best results use within 8 months to a year. Most herbs will diminish in flavor with age and a larger amount will be needed to achieve the desired flavor in cooking. You can do a test by pinching a small amount between your fingers. If it doesn’t release the desired flavor, it’s too old and needs to be replaced. If you are leaving home for long periods of time, throw your “dried” pantry in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness. Always crush in your palm before adding to foods to release the volatile oils and add flavor, and don’t add until the end if using in a slow cooker.
What is the ratio of fresh to dry herbs when cooking?
The ratio of fresh herbs to dry herbs in cooking is 3 to 1 or 1 tablespoon to 1 teaspoon respectively. So, for example, if a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of fresh cinnamon, you only need 1 tablespoon of dried cinnamon.
Try these healthy cinnamon rolls from the Mayo Clinic Staff.