They say that once you’ve been seduced by herbs and spices you never look back. Spices enhance good cholesterol levels while reducing bad cholesterol and may speed up the metabolism and assist in overall well-being.
Herbs contain vitamins, antioxidants and biochemicals that strengthen your immune system and boost heart and bowel health, to list just a few of the benefits.
In the colder months, changing our cooking methods and ingredients is a good way to boost overall health. Spices contain warming properties that can support our well-being at this time.
One of my favourites is cinnamon because it’s so versatile. Combining spices with herbs increases the total antioxidant value of your food intake. This is beneficial not just for colder months but also to slow the ageing process.
Think about the aromas wafting through the kitchen while spices are doing their thing. There is nothing better on a winter’s day than warming the house by cooking with spices. I love the smell of apples poaching in water with cloves, allspice, mace and cinnamon quills.
By modifying the herbs and spices you add, you can create different flavours. Instead of salt-and-pepper calamari, how about grilled calamari with bay leaf and rosemary? It is a perfect meal.
Let’s add salt – no way!
One of the easiest methods to reduce salt in your diet is to add herbs and spices. Consuming too much salt increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease. It also increases calcium excretion, which can be disastrous for bone health.
The possibilities are endless: cinnamon and poached fruit; broccoli and caraway seeds with coriander and flat-leaf parsley; paprika chicken; lentils with ground curry powder and turmeric; breakfast quinoa and mixed seeds with nutmeg; and sumac sprinkled over curried eggs or hummus.
How about saffron couscous served with baked fish, or vanilla pod seeds mixed into natural yoghurt?
But Wait… There’s More!
Spices, if consumed regularly, may assist in regulating blood-sugar levels. This is particularly important in the long term to prevent type 2 diabetes. In the short term, it can offset 3.30-itis sugar cravings and the desire for chocolate.
If the overall diet is inadequate or containing excessive toxins such as caffeine, processed flours and sugars, spices may assist in offsetting some of the damage.
Note that this is not a free ride to excess consumption, and about one tablespoon of the desired spice daily is required for the benefit.
Clients often mention that salads are boring. One of my suggestions to beat this attitude is to substitute herbs for lettuce. Herbs are often used as a garnish. Why not use them as the salad’s hero?
Coriander and flat-leaf parsley, for example. Team with mixed tomatoes, fresh dill and mandarin segments. Now that will give you a shot of vitamin C to scare any cold away.
If the dreaded lurgy does appear, hot water with fresh mint, ginger and lemon should assist.
Tarragon is another herb pleading for attention. Team with fresh ricotta, avocado and sourdough rye for lunch.
A recent kitchen experiment yielded roasted cauliflower served with buckwheat and generous amounts of fresh and dried dill. It was a winner.
Sage loves sweet potato, while beetroot and dill are a match made in heaven; basil pairs nicely with bocconcini, especially on a mezze plate with roasted capsicum and olives.
And, just for the women
If it’s period time and a hot-water bottle just won’t do, rather than popping the pharmaceutical things, boiling water with fresh or ground ginger and fennel seeds should help. Adding a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of honey will make it more palatable.
OK, something for the men too
Cleaner food choices will give you greater endurance throughout the day. I’m thinking slow-cooked lamb shoulder, sweet potato, swede and carrots with cumin, coriander seeds and, yes, of course cinnamon. Perhaps a recipe to impress her with …