We all supplement our food unless you cook totally pure without herbs or spices.
Usually, we season our food because of the taste, yet spices are also a great source of necessary vitamins and minerals. We can season food for health benefits.
As an artist, I can’t resist mentioning that spices also make a great dye for paper and fabric. But don’t worry, this article is about how to season food. Although cooking is of course also an artistic process. 🙂
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Table of contents
- 1 How to season food for health benefits?
- 2 Who decides which spices to use?
- 3 Eight spices we use a lot
- 3.1 Paprika powder – when your blood can use a boost
- 3.2 Cinnamon powder – great on desserts
- 3.3 Stevia powder – for the sweet tooth
- 3.4 Spirulina powder – something good from the sea
- 3.5 Curcuma – an anti-inflammatory solution
- 3.6 Ashwagandha – against cell aging
- 3.7 Ginger powder – to improve digestion
- 3.8 Garlic powder – be aware of smells 🙂
- 4 How much should we add?
- 5 How do we know it’s organic?
How to season food for health benefits?
Spices add taste to food, yet are also packed with nutrients that benefit our health. If you have a (minor) ailment it is a good idea to look up which spice will be especially great for you because different spices benefit different parts of your body.
Who decides which spices to use?
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t cook. My husband, Tom, is spoiling me by cooking the most delicious and healthy food you can think of. I am the one researching all the nutritional facts. And eating it, of course!
For Tom taste comes first in choosing which spice goes in the food. But especially now in Corona times, it is good to keep an eye on our immune system and wherever possible, boost it with spices.
Tip: different colors of food have different vitamins and minerals. A great rule of thumb is to eat as many colors on a day as possible. It goes without saying that I don’t mean artificially colored food. Have a look at our eBook Use the Colors of Food to Benefit your Health for an extended explanation.
Eight spices we use a lot
Whenever possible Tom uses fresh herbs we grow in our own kitchen garden. Even though we live in a subtropical area, not everything grows here. And sometimes it is out of season. So dried herbs and powders are on the menu as well.
Some nutritional elements will be more concentrated in powder, but there are losses too. For instance, Vitamin C is more present in fresh stuff than in dried form. The main reason for using powders is the availability and the simplicity to use.
The 8 listed spices are a personal preference and certainly not the only spices we eat.
Paprika powder – when your blood can use a boost
Personally, I think that fresh bell pepper and paprika powder differ the most in taste from all the powders we often use. It supports healthy digestion and like a lot of spices, it is good for a healthy heart.
Paprika powder contains a lot of Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant. As with all orange-colored food, it’s very beneficial for our skin and eyes.
Cinnamon powder – great on desserts
Cinnamon is not as orange as paprika powder but has the same health benefits. The taste is different of course. Where paprika powder is tasting rather hot than sweet, cinnamon has a kind of sweet touch.
It’s Tom’s favorite on his homemade apple-pear sauce. He does not sweeten the apple-pear sauce.
He lets apples and pears simmer with a little water at a low temperature and lets it thicken. The cinnamon gives it a specific taste he likes very much.
It reminds me of my mother’s apple pie. That also contained a lot of cinnamon.
Stevia powder – for the sweet tooth
That apple pie of my mother also had a ton of sugar. I don’t think I could eat it nowadays; it’s been ages since I ate refined sugar. Once you get used to the real taste of vegetables and meat (we don’t add salt either) it’s amazing to realize how sugar and salt affect your taste.
Not that a sweet taste is bad and stevia is great for that. Moreover, it has the same benefits as the other spices. Like reducing blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels.
Spirulina powder – something good from the sea
Spirulina is an alga and is known to be packed with nutrients. Apart from the vitamins and minerals, it’s a plant-based source of iron, making it an excellent supplement for vegans and vegetarians. As most algae come from the sea it also contains salt. Something to take into account if you are on a salt-free diet.
I love spirulina the most in a smoothie with lots of green vegetables.
Spirulina is quite a hype lately, so make sure you buy good quality. There were some concerns in the past about contamination, so better safe than sorry.
Curcuma – an anti-inflammatory solution
Curcuma has been one of the magic herbs for me since I discovered all the health benefits. We’ve only been eating it for a few years now. In fact, I believe, since we live in Spain. What a pity, isn’t it?
Curcuma is also called Turmeric and is widely used in Indian cuisine. In Asia, they discovered the medicinal effect of the herb centuries ago.
There are many health benefits of eating Curcuma daily, the most important of which are: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, lowering cholesterol, detoxifying, probably even reducing cancer.
There is less Alzheimer’s in India than in the rest of the world, which may well be related to the use of Curcuma.
Ashwagandha – against cell aging
Another herb commonly used in Indian cooking as well as in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medical science, is Ashwagandha.
I use it daily to sleep better but there are more benefits to Ashwagandha. It prevents cell aging, lowers stress, has an antidepressant effect, and is good for memory and thinking.
If you are sensitive to plants of the nightshade family, such as potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes, it is wise to be careful. Ashwagandha also belongs to the nightshades.
Ginger powder – to improve digestion
I absolutely love ginger. We eat it a lot as it not only tastes marvelous but has many health benefits. It calms the stomach if you have digestive problems or gas. Ginger even seems to reduce the symptoms of motion sickness.
It’s a great tea when you feel chilly in wintertime. Not only the temperature of the tea will warm you because of its diaphoretic quality.
Cut fresh ginger into small pieces and pour hot water on it. Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes and your tea is ready.
Garlic powder – be aware of smells 🙂
Garlic is said to purify the blood. Hence its beneficial effect on heart diseases and blood pressure. From ancient times on it is used for medicinal purposes.
Here in Spain, everybody eats garlic. Not in the Netherlands. If we were going to meet friends or have a meeting we would skip the garlic as most Dutch hate the smell. Making us very glad we live in Spain now. It’s always on our menu nowadays.
Garlic powder smells even more than fresh garlic. A trick is to chew parsley or mint leaves after your meal. That reduces garlic or onion smells.
How much should we add?
There are 3 reasons why it is almost impossible to mention the quantity of adding spices.
- Supplementary powders and spices are not scientifically tested, making it very hard to be accurate at the appropriate doses;
- Plants depend on the type of soil and the climate for their composition, so that can vary;
- Countries have different standards for recommended units.
How do we know it’s organic?
It is the comment I get most when I propagate organic food. I have to say that I sometimes get annoyed by this comment because questions are rarely asked about the amount of poison used in ‘normal’ agriculture. On the other hand, it is good to keep an eye on the quality of what you eat.
Both the EU and the USA have a symbol that indicates something is organic. The standards that organic must meet are very high. The EU has a control system and rules are even more strict since 1 January 2021.
Apart from the symbols, you can look at the reputation of the brands. Are the marketing texts meaningful or in fact not saying anything valuable? And have a good look at the nutritional information. Avoid added artificial sweeteners or something with E-numbers on it.
What spice do you love to add to your food? Tell me in the comment box.