Did you know that fresh herbs and spices don’t JUST 10x flavor (as if that weren’t enough), but that they have magical healing powers, too? Many contain compounds capable of modifying gene expression to potentially keep cancer and other diseases at bay, plus providing immune support, controlling inflammation, and warding off bacteria and viruses—i.e., they have superpowers! So we’re not talking just enhancing taste, but improving wellness and possibly increasing longevity when you reach for that spice jar or throw some chopped herbs in whatever you’ve got cooking.
I’m delighted to share one of my favorite posts from the archives on this topic. If you haven’t seen it before, take a few moments to absorb this truly remarkable knowledge developed over the past decade of nutrition research. Plus get 2 superb recipes, including one of my most popular potato recipes ever. Serious yum!
Collectively known as aromatics, spices, herbs and aliums (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and chives) are essential ingredients for dialing up the flavor AND healing power of foods.
Incredibly stimulating to the mouth, nose, and eyes, herbs and spices send a culinary telegram to the brain consisting of three words: Time to eat! There’s immense pleasure associated with that message. And aromatics add to your important official daily tally of plants, since, yes! They are plants. And each is loaded with oodles of antioxidants and phytochemicals… a concentrated force of nutrient density and yum.
Over the past decade or so, numerous aromatic ingredients have gone under the microscope. A major impetus for this may well have been the prolific use of spices by traditional healers from around the globe for centuries.
It appears they may have been on to something. Many aromatics contain compounds capable of modifying gene expression. Genes often have the equivalent of on/off switches, and they typically flip on and off rapidly to meet the changing needs of the body. When this system is operating well, one of its functions is to create molecules and proteins that keep cancer and many other diseases at bay. Spices appear to play a huge role in this process. Similarly, many aromatics contain compounds that provide immune support, control inflammation, and ward off bacteria and viruses. What more could you ask for? Great taste and possibly increased longevity? Check.
Plus cooking is a little bit like working out. Keep your workout routine the same and pretty soon
the body gets used to it and plateaus instead of getting stronger. Similarly, taste buds fed the same food day after day experience fatigue. What once was a striking, stimulating taste will no longer trigger that same intensely pleasurable response. What you need are new stimuli to throw your taste buds a curveball and keep them engaged. Here’s where herbs and spices rule!
But… are you unsure about how to use them? Are you okay coloring within the lines of a recipe, but a little out of your depth experimenting in your kitchen? I have good news: it couldn’t be easier! Just give your tastebuds a passport to travel all over the world on a culinary carpet ride. My favorite route? The Silk Road, the centuries old avenue transporting the rarest of flavor ingredients across the globe and right into your kitchen. As kings and queens, rajahs and sheiks have enlivened and excited their palettes with these treasures from faraway lands, so can you.
Try picking 3 in each category, and experiment with finding combinations you’re crazy about.
And here’s what you need to get about cooking with herbs and spices: Spices go in at the BEGINNING of your cooking and herbs go in at the END.
Do you notice how many recipes start with sauteing onions and spices or toasting seeds? That’s because as spices warm they begin to open up and release their oils so they can penetrate the food throughout cooking. Whereas, herbs go in at the very end since they don’t need time to incorporate. The flavor pop and fresh chopped texture of herbs make them the ideal finishing touch.
I don’t think there’s anything I cook that I don’t add fresh herbs and spices to! Even if it’s just chopped parsley it will UP your culinary and wellness game.
True confessions: I have a serious, life-long thing for potatoes. And these Toasty Spiced Roasted Potatoes are SERIOUSLY irresistible!
And if you want a simple herb/olive oil mixture you can whip up in your food processor and have ready in your frig to make fish, chicken or vegetables sing with flavor — watch this video of me and my chum Sandy Kleiman making My Everything Drizzle.
Everything for the healthy cook! So, learn to use herbs and spices! Use them today and use them often. Wake up and smell the cinnamon!
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