It’s that time of year again — the time when we add a little flavor to our lives with spices. What says “fall” more than a savory stew, steaming hot chocolate or a spicy chili? This stuff may be tasty and warm you up on a cold fall day, but the masala in your chai can also enhance your health!
“Using herbs and spices add a lot of flavor without increasing your sodium intake. The FDA recommends only 2300 mg of sodium per day. People don’t realize how much sodium they consume, especially when eating out,” says Chrisy O’Connor, a registered dietician and founder of Personal NEWtrition in Blue Ash.
Here are a few great choices to spice up your food (and your health):
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a great antioxidant! Half a teaspoon has as many antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries. Antioxidants reduce inflammation and help the immune system. How can you incorporate extra cinnamon in your life? Add some to your tea (along with cardamom and allspice) with some milk (soy or regular) for your own, homemade chai.
- Rosemary: “And rosemary for remembrance,” Ophelia said — and she was on to something! Rosemary has long been used for medicinal purposes. It can soothe your stomach and reduce inflammation, and it is also an antioxidant. You can easily grow some in your garden or in a pot or find it fresh at your local grocery store to add some to chicken dishes or vinaigrettes for an aromatic addition to dinner. Rosemary is often used in toners and other skin treatments because its anti-inflammatory properties soothe the skin.
- Curry: Curry itself isn’t a spice, but the spice that gives it its beautiful yellow color — turmeric — has many health benefits. A team of researchers from UCLA discovered that turmeric may affect Alzheimer’s rates by reducing the physical effects of Alzheimer’s on the brain. It also helps digestion and can guard against heart attacks. You can add curry powder, found at the grocery store, to your chicken salad or to a cream sauce over pasta. You also can check out some local Indian restaurants for dishes like Vindaloo or Korma for your kick of curry! Turmeric is also found in bright yellow mustard — so slather it on.
- Chilis: Chilis contain capsaicin, which is a powerful pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. Capsaicin is found in many topical pain-relieving ointments. Try putting some chili powder in your hot chocolate (also a great antioxidant) for some spicy, Mexican-style hot chocolate. O’Connor recommends using chili powder, cumin and salsa to make your own taco seasoning. Mix it with salsa and lean ground beef, turkey or tofu and avoid the seasoning packets that have too much sodium and too little flavor.
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