What better time to celebrate the delights of good food than during March, National Nutrition Month? This year the theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.” Who thinks healthy eating has to be boring, restrictive, or just no fun? If you raised your hand, you need to keep reading.
Herbs and spices – these are the keys to flavorful meals with healthful ingredients. Herbs and spices are calorie free, fat free, gluten free and dairy free and are packed with phytochemicals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
A little goes a long way in enhancing the flavor of any food. Try them dried or fresh. You can grow them on your windowsill, in pots on the deck, or as perennials in your garden. They go with meats, seafood and fish, beans, vegetables and fruits.
The list of uses is long and varied. Start with some of the regulars like fresh parsley. Did you know that parsley has Vitamin C and antioxidants? It freshens the breath after a meal while fortifying your immune system.
How about Oregano? Fresh oregano is great with all things Italian, commonly used in Mexican sauces, and is a great addition to salads. Oregano oil has antibacterial and antiviral components as well as free radical scavengers.
Cilantro is a lovely herb, a favorite in Mexican and Indian recipes, and complements either a cool yogurt salad or a spicy salsa. Curcumin which is found in turmeric has been shown to have cancer fighting properties. Curries are high in turmeric and are delish in sauces or rice dishes.
Then there’s mint. Consumed as a tea or paired with balsamic vinegar and beets, mint turns flat into exciting. Mint is known as a digestive aid but also has antioxidant and some antiallergenic potential. Cinnamon has been shown to help stabilize blood sugars and act as an antimicrobial.
The amounts of herbs and spices used in cooking are generally regarded as safe and adding them is an easy, surprising, and creative way to savor the flavor of your favorite recipes and add zest to your table with a punch of prevention in every bite. Enjoy! Cheryl Dziura-Duke is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Day Kimball Hospital.