Herbs and spices are a great way to create a positive dining experience for your customers. They improve the sight, smell and taste of food without extra salt, sugar or fat. They also are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight damage in the body caused by things such as aging, poor eating habits and pollution. This damage can increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Use these five particularly powerful herbs and spices to give your dishes more flavor and help your customers’ bodies fight the good fight.
This uniquely yellow spice is from a ground root native to Southeast Asia and gives mustards, curry powder and some cheeses their yellow hue. Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines use turmeric in savory dishes to add earthy flavor and spice. Traditional medicine says turmeric can help digestion, but science shows it may also ease inflammation, thanks to a substance called curcumin. Inflammation is a protective irritation and swelling response within the body, but it can also cause health problems. Curcumin in turmeric fights the irritation caused by inflammation and can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and heart disease.
2. Chili peppers
From bell to cayenne and jalapeno to aji, this family of peppers hails from Mexico. As a spice, they are dried, ground and used to bring a little (or a lot) of heat to dishes. Sauces such as Sriracha get their heat from chili pepper paste. The health benefits of chili peppers come from a compound called capsaicin, which can improve blood flow and lower cholesterol to bolster heart health. Capsaicin may also help people feel full, and increase their body’s temperature to trigger fat-burning processes. Use it to spice up soups, potatoes and dips like hummus or guacamole. Tip: start with a small amount and add more per your customers’ tolerance or preference.
The warm, sweet flavor of cloves make them great for fall and winter recipes. Ground clove is well suited to breads and baked goods, hot cereals and fruit compotes or ciders. Cloves have long been used in herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine as a rub to numb pain, and now science shows cloves contain a compound called eugenol, which may help soothe sore muscles and arthritis pain. As a bonus, cloves are the densest source of antioxidants among herbs and spices, making them a strong fighter against cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Ground ginger root makes regular appearances in Asian-style vegetable dishes and dressings, but ginger became popular in North America through specialty teas, like turmeric orange ginger.” Another is matcha, a green tea powder used in traditional Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies, whose somewhat bitter flavor is balanced by the citrusy spice of ginger. Traditionally used to treat nausea, ginger contains a substance called gingerol, which research shows could help reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol to lessen the risk of heart disease.
Dukka is an Egyptian spice mix whose basic ingredients include toasted hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander and cumin. Preparing dukka is as simple as blending the nuts, seeds and flavoring agents. The nuts and seeds in dukka add healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6 to any dish, which are good for heart health. Dukka also provides protein for muscle strength and B-vitamins for energy. Mix it with olive oil for a dressing or dip, or use it to flavor roasted vegetables, tofu or scrambled eggs.
Just like any food, herbs and spices should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. Scientists have not yet figured out how much of an herb or spice needs to be consumed to realize its health benefits, but they do know using them in moderation provides antioxidants and other micronutrients. Use them to add flavor to your menu and feel good knowing that you’ll also be helping the health of your customers.