*most viewed post* Spice it up: the basics when it comes to using herbs and spices

Spices and herbs are a great way to get extra nutrients into your diet. Cinnamon and other seasonings have very high levels of antioxidants (more on that here) and the polyphenols in herbs and spices; which can also be found in teas, red wine, fruits, and vegetables; have been shown to provide the main health benefits of herbs and spices.

Certain herbs and spices can also help curb inflammation in the body, which may give rise to heart disease and cancer. For example, the antioxidants in cinnamon have been shown to lower inflammation, as well as reductions in blood sugar concentrations in people with diabetes.

In addition, consumption of common herbs and spices may help protect against certain chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

So what are herbs and spices, really?

Herbs, including basil and parsley, are from plants and plant parts. Spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark, or roots of plants.

How can I incorporate them into my diet?

The great thing about spices and herbs is that a little goes a long way, not only flavor wise but also health wise. Studies have shown that you can expect benefits from as little as 1.5 tsp of cinnamon a day.

Ground cinnamon:

  • Add 1.25 teaspoons to prepared oatmeal; 1 cup Greek yogurt mixed with 2 teaspoons molasses or honey, or artificial sweetener; and French toast batter.
  • Sprinkle half a teaspoon of cinnamon over ground coffee before brewing.
  • Top a fat-free latte or hot cocoa with ground cinnamon.

Chili peppers: Add chopped peppers to chili, burgers, soups, stews, salsa, and egg dishes.

 Turmeric: 

  • Sprinkle on egg salad.
  • Mix half a teaspoon turmeric with 1 cup Greek yogurt and use as a dip or sandwich spread.
  • Add to chicken or seafood casseroles, and to water when cooking rice.

Garlic: Add fresh chopped or minced garlic to pasta dishes, stir-fry dishes, pizza, fresh tomato sauce, and meat and poultry recipes.

Oregano:

  • Add 1/8 teaspoon dried to scrambled eggs, salad dressings, and store-bought or homemade marinara sauce.
  • Sprinkle some on top of pizza, and stir into black bean soup.

 Basil: Make a sandwich with low-fat mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves; add fresh leaves to green salads.

Thyme:

  • Sprinkle dried thyme onto cooked vegetables in place of butter or margarine.
  • Add 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme to two scrambled eggs, and to salad dressings.
  • Use it in a rub when cooking salmon.
  • Add fresh thyme to chicken salad and chicken soup.

Rosemary: Add dried crushed rosemary to mashed potatoes and vegetable omelets.

Parsley: Add chopped flat leaf parsley to meatballs and meat loaf, and to bulgur salad.

Ginger:

  • Grate fresh ginger into quick bread batters and vinaigrette.
  • Add chopped ginger to stir-fries. Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots.

Cloves: Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce, add to quick bread batters, and add a pinch to hot tea.

Another way to get more spices and herbs into your diet is to replace salt with fresh or dried herbs or spices. So rather than grabbing for the salt shaker, you’re grabbing for more spices or herbs which have far more benefits. Try mixing together a blend of dried seasonings for a burst of flavor:

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp paprika

2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper

OR

1/2 tsp chives

1/2 tsp parsley

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Is there a difference between using fresh/dried herbs or spices?

If using fresh herbs, add them at the end of cooking so they don’t sour or stale. Use fresh herbs, like basil, dill, mint, tarragon, and parsley in uncooked dishes.

If using dried herbs and spices, add them at the start of cooking so they have time to moisten, soften, and release their flavors. Dry seasonings are best for marinades, slow cooked soups, or stews.

You can replace fresh herbs with dried in most recipes.

1 tablespoon fresh = 1 tsp dry

How do I know if my seasonings are still good?

* Check the color. If the color of your herbs or spices has faded, likely the flavor has too.

* Check the scent. Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the smell is weak, it’s time to replace it.

* Store properly. Keep seasonings in airtight containers away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight.

How long do spices and herbs last?

* Ground spices…..2-3 years

* Whole spices…..3-4 years

* Seasoning blends….1-2 years

* Herbs…..1-3 years

* Extracts…..4 years (except pure vanilla which lasts indefinitely)

Below I have included a few graphics that point out even more flavor combos.

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16 thoughts on “*most viewed post* Spice it up: the basics when it comes to using herbs and spices

    • I’ve finally discovered how awesome spices can be. I was always afraid to use them because I used to be the pickiest eater (I’m slowly expanding my horizons when it comes to trying new things). Such an easy way to add flavor and that “something” extra, you know? Let me know how the creativity goes. Would be interested in what you use them in.

      • I have always favored spices as that’s what my mom uses, but I can get stuck in cooking patterns. This post will help me notice other flavors I could add you know? I like to use a lot of basil, crushed garlic (my fave!), italian seasoning and parsley. I also enjoy using rosemary and thyme. 🙂

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  10. Thanks for such a great post! This is one of the most helpful cooking posts I’ve come by, and it’s gorgeously arranged.
    Keep up the good work!

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