By Natalie Leustek
To infuse a little fall into your cooking, start with your spice cabinet. Warm flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove are a great way to enhance the flavor of food while offering some surprising health benefits for you and your family.
Here are a few reasons why might want to add a pinch of this and a dash of that as the leaves start changing:
Use less salt
When you cook with spices, you’re less likely to use salt-based seasonings, which can increase blood pressure and thirst and cause fluid retention. Spices add flavor without those side effects.
Some chefs suggest that using spices to create multiple layers of taste can help you feel fuller and more satisfied—which means you might eat less.
Eat more antioxidants
Spices are rich in antioxidants, which are substances that help stabilize free radicals in the body and prevent them from damaging cells and impairing the immune system. Some spices have a higher antioxidant content than fruits and vegetables, though you need both for a healthy diet.
Access therapeutic benefits
Spices have the potential to ease a number of symptoms. You’ve probably heard of sipping ginger ale for nausea or an upset stomach, but did you know that allspice might help with a toothache, or that nutmeg may reduce bloating?
Spices, however, are not substitutes for prescription medications. While most spices used as flavor enhancers during cooking are safe, they may have negative side effects or interact with certain medications when taken as herbal supplements. Make sure you consult your healthcare provider before using spices as supplements.
Below are some common fall spices that you can start adding to your dishes. All of them contain antioxidant properties in addition to offering other health benefits:
- Allspice: May help with indigestion, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, and toothaches. Add to baked desserts, stews, sauces, and pickled vegetables.
- Cardamom: Contains cancer-fighting properties and may aid digestion. Add to vegetables, savory meat and fish dishes, stews, soups, breads, and coffee.
- Cinnamon: May improve blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Also has antimicrobial properties. Add to hot cereals, smoothies, desserts, and tea.
- Cloves: Contains antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Use in barbeque rubs, sauces, and desserts.
- Ginger: May reduce bloating and nausea, ease migraines, improve blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of ovarian cancer. Add to Asian dishes, apple dishes, salad dressings, and tea.
- Nutmeg: May reduce bloating and diarrhea. May act as an antidepressant. Also contains antibacterial properties. Add to savory meat dishes, soups, and desserts.
- Turmeric: May reduce inflammation, lower the risk of various types of cancer, and reduce cholesterol and plaque formation in the arteries. Use in curry sauces and herbal beverages, and with eggs, tofu, vegetables, and grains.
Natalie Leustek is a registered dietitian at Vancouver Clinic.