If you’re cooking juicy steak and succulent potatoes, chances are you’re throwing salt on your meal for taste. Maybe you spread mayonnaise on your sandwich, or add butter to pasta, bread and broccoli. Heck, why WOULDN’T you throw delicious butter onto everything you eat?
The trouble with many condiments, however, is that they add up in calories VERY quickly. But remember, nobody said being on a diet means eating boring, bland food! By using herbs and spices in your cooking, you can add flavor to your food without needing to add those extra calories or fat. Here are some tips on various spices and alternative condiments you can add to meals while cooking or eating out at restaurants.
Originally from Sri Lanka and India, cinnamon is a sweet spice known for being high in antioxidants, which can protect your cells from the effects of damaging free radicals. This sweet spice has been used traditionally to treat toothaches, fight common colds, soothe indigestion and fight bad breath, but recent research points to cinnamon as a way to help reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol found in people with diabetes. Add cinnamon to tea, soups, fruits and oatmeal.
Despite its strong odor, garlic is a superstar when it comes to contributing to your health. This pungent onion contains allicin, an active phytochemical that gives garlic its aroma. It’s also rich in antioxidants, and some research shows that garlic may help decrease high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Buy garlic cloves to crush or cook whole. You can also use garlic powder to sprinkle on anything from beef and chicken to vegetables, whole wheat breads and pastas.
For those who like it hot and spicy, this spice comes from the chili pepper and is used to flavor all kinds of dishes, especially Mexican and Sichuan cuisine. What makes cayenne pepper so intense is capsaicinoids, which are responsible for the burning sensation in your mouth when you eat it. However, these phytochemicals have been shown in some studies to lower cholesterol, boost immunity, alleviate pains and reduce the amount of insulin needed to lower blood sugar after eating. Moreover, cayenne pepper is a nutritional powerhouse high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, iron and riboflavin. For a real kick to your meals, add whole chili peppers to the mix.
This root, long used in cooking and as an herbal remedy, is a great way to make stir-fry spicy and vegetarian dishes. It’s also been used as an effective way to treat nausea, inflammation and upset stomach, plus it includes a little magnesium, potassium and vitamin C.
There are plenty of other spices and herbs with healthful benefits. Oregano has high levels of antioxidants and flavanoids, while rosemary is high in vitamin B6, calcium and iron. Parsley is rich in vitamin C, whereas cumin is a source for iron and basil is a good source of magnesium.
Aim to buy fresh herbs from farmer’s markets, or save money and grow your own in a windowsill herb garden. Dried herbs work equally well – store them in airtight containers away from heat.
Find out more about how spices and herbs can help you add flavor and nutrients while helping you lose weight:
- American Diabetes Association: Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People with Type 2 Diabetes
- Garlic Overview from the University of Maryland Medical Center
- Archives of Internal Medicine: Garlic Shows Promise for Improving Some Cardiovascular Risk Factors
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of chili consumption on postprandial glucose, insulin, and energy metabolism
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[Image: Cinnamon Sticks from PinkStock Photos!'s Flickr Photostream/Creative Commons]
[Image: Garlic from Sebastian Mary's Flickr Photostream/Creative Commons]
[Image: Cayenne Pepper from cleverclevergirl's Flickr Photostream/Creative Commons]
[Image: Ginger from vieux bandit's Flickr Photostream/Creative Commons]