Improve your health (and your cooking) by adding some of the world’s most nutritious and flavourful spices and herbs to your kitchen. Whole foods are healthy choices, but honestly, they can get boring. Transform them with the help of earthy, warm, and even sweet herbs and spices. Come discover which spices and herbs offer health benefits, and how to use them in your kitchen. It’s time to spice up your life!
Spices may seem like a way to enhance flavour, but they are much more than that. What gives spices their strong flavours are plant compounds that offer health benefits. The health benefits of many spices and herbs are well-researched.
Fresh is always best, however, the antioxidant capacity of dried herbs is still significant, notes a study. That’s great news for those who don’t live where fresh spices and herbs are readily available. In colder climates, such as Canada, one solution is to grow herbs inside as a fresh source of these functional flavours.
It all depends on what you’re craving. Some spices offer warmth to your dishes, such as turmeric or ginger. Others can offer sweetness, such as cinnamon. Herbs can both earthy flavours (thyme) or sweet (basil) to your salad dressings, vegetables, or tofu.
Some of the most common spices, their flavour, and what best to pair them within the kitchen:
Basil (sweet) – eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano.
Cinnamon (earthy, sweet) – apples, carrots, squash, allspice, nutmeg, cloves.
Coriander (earthy, peppery) – onions, tomatoes, potatoes, tofu, curry, chili powder, cumin.
Ginger (sweet, warm) – carrots, beets, citrus, cabbage, onions, tofu, garlic, oregano, cumin, turmeric.
Oregano (earthy) – artichokes, bell peppers, mushrooms, lemon, beans, bay leaves, thyme, ginger.
Paprika (sweet, warm) – cauliflower, broccoli, squash, tofu, garlic, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder.
Rosemary (earthy) – potatoes, mushrooms, peas, onions, beans, garlic, oregano, thyme, basil.
Thyme (earthy) – green beans, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, lentils, oregano, rosemary.
Turmeric (bitter, peppery) – cauliflower, beans, lentils, tofu, garlic, ginger.
Learn How to Cook Healthy at our Holistic Culinary Workshops.
Ginger on human health: a comprehensive systematic review of 109 randomized controlled trials. Nutrients 2020 Jan; 12(1): 157.
Cumin: potential health benefits. Nutrition Today 2021 May; 56(3): 144-151.
Curcumin: total-scale analysis of the scientific literature. Molecules 2019 Apr;24(7): 1393.
Potential health benefits of garlic based on health intervention studies: a brief overview. Antioxidants (Basel) 2020 Jul; 9(7): 619.
Safety of cinnamon: an umbrella review of meta-analyses and systematic reviews of randomized clinical trials. Front Pharmacol 2022 Jan; 12:790901.
An evidence-based systematic review of rosemary (Rosmarinus ofiicinalis) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of Dietary Supplements 2010; 7(4):351-413.
Antioxidant capacity and phytochemical content of herbs and spices in dry, fresh and blended herb paste form. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2011 May; 62(3): 219-25.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.