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5 minute read |

Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle!

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org). The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

National Nutrition Month also promotes the Academy and its members to the public and the media as the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically based food and nutrition information.

Here are some power packed tips to help you “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” using those ingredients that are lining your cupboards, but may rarely be used. Spices and herbs can enhance the quality of your meals with flavor and antioxidant power. When used in in cooking they will enhance the flavor your foods, help reduce the amount of fat and salt of a meal while adding a powerful nutritional punch of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are found in variable amounts in the hundreds of herbs and spices that exist in the plant kingdom. Here’s a quick look at five dried herbs and spices that rank highest in antioxidant content per 100 g (based on a list from the McCormick Science Institute) with tips for helping you to incorporate them into your favorite foods so you can practice “biting into a healthy lifestyle” with each and every meal.

Clove

Native to the islands of Indonesia, clove is made from the dried flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. Clove lends its distinctively strong flavor and aroma to ketchup and Worcestershire sauce preparations and historically has been used as a natural numbing agent.

What does it contain?

Dried clove is rich in polyphenolic compounds and strong in antioxidant properties. Clove ranks highest as a natural antioxidant due to its phenol content which helps to prevent cellular damage of our bodies.

How to use cloves?

You can use ground clove wherever you might add cinnamon or ginger. For example, stir ground clove into applesauce, stewed pears, or oatmeal. Clove is also a pleasant addition to muffins, cookies, whole grain pancakes, and sweet breads

Oregano

has been cultivated for centuries and widely used in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine. Common oregano comes from the dried leaves of a small perennial flowering shrub that is native to the Mediterranean and cultivated worldwide.

What does it contain?

Within its green, oval-shaped leaves, oregano is rich in phytochemicals (cancer fighting agents). Oregano has the highest total antioxidant capacity and phenolic content when compared with thyme, sage, rosemary, mint, and sweet basil. In addition, oregano may increase brain antioxidant activity and total antioxidant status for our bodies.

How to use oregano?

With a little creative thinking and cooking you can use oregano for far more than pizza and spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle dried oregano to enliven sandwiches (e.g., grilled cheese) as well as casseroles and salad dressings. Try a slice of whole grain toast with mozzarella and a sprinkle of oregano for a quick breakfast on the go. Want a unique twist on scrambled eggs? Instead of adding cheese, mix in some vegetables such as mushrooms and Swiss chard with a healthful dash of oregano.

Ginger

Dried, ground ginger comes from the root of the perennial herb Zingiber officinale. After the plant reaches 2 to 4 feet in height, the leaves die and the thick roots are dug up for eating.

What does it contain?

Ginger contains several compounds that are thought to provide health benefits. Among them is gingerol, which lends the root its characteristic spiciness. Historically, ginger has been used to treat everything from the common cold to motion sickness and gastrointestinal ailments. Ginger may protect tissues and organs against cellular damage and prevent cancer development and growth.

How to use ginger?

Consider ground ginger when you want to add a gentle spice to your foods. I love to add it to fruit smoothies, cereals, or yogurt and sprinkle it on toast to make a quick and easy gingerbread toast. Ground ginger instantly adds an Asian flair to sautéed vegetables, salad dressings, and marinades. Sprinkle ground ginger on sweet potatoes for an antioxidant-packed side dish. Explore the yummy potential of ginger!

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is considered one of the first known spices, is the dried inner bark of various evergreen trees within the genus Cinnamomum. When harvested, the tree bark is stripped and allowed to dry in the sun where it forms its characteristic curls known as quills.

What does it contain?

Antioxidant components of cinnamon, such as cinnamaldehyde, suggest cinnamon may act as an antioxidant in humans. A recent study found that extracts of cinnamon had the powerful antioxidant effects.

How to use cinnamon?

Cinnamon is incredibly versatile. It can be sprinkled on foods like oatmeal [and] yogurt, or mixed in your glass of milk. I like to use cinnamon to yummy up plain cereal, sprinkled on toast with almond butter, or added to baked apples, pears and my favorite - orange slices (YES – try it!!). If you prefer something sweet, use cinnamon for extra flavor and a sense of sweetness without adding actual sugar. Cinnamon is an excellent addition to savory dishes as well, such as quinoa, whole wheat couscous, or barley salad. It can even enhance the flavor of chili and spaghetti sauce – enjoy the different flavors!

Turmeric

Like ginger, dried turmeric originates from the root of the plant Curcuma longa. It is noted for its bright yellow color; turmeric gives curry powder its distinctive hue and is used to add color and flavor to prepared mustard, pickles, relish, chutneys, and rice dishes.

What does it contain?

Curcumin, the bright yellow antioxidant compound found in turmeric, has been the focus of intense research due to its potential to avert chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit the expression of a specific gene that’s believed to lead to the development and progression of breast cancer. POWERFUL!

How to use turmeric?

Turmeric can be added to any vegetable side dish for a little curry flavor, Dried turmeric has a strong taste and is best cooked a bit before consumption. It can be added to whole grain rice, stir fries and casserole dishes. Turmeric has a unique ability to add rich color to any dish, such as roasted cauliflower or a plain couscous salad. Turmeric can really help out a dish with flavor and eye appeal! Try it! You will be pleasantly surprised

So break your cupboards open and “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle”! Spice up your life and your body with flavor and the power of nutrition! Stuck for ideas? Try this wonderful recipe for Spiced Lentils using ginger, cloves and turmeric! I have even added a little cinnamon and oregano using all five of our powerhouse spices and herbs! Enjoy your flavorful journey!

Spiced Lentils Recipe

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Curry powder or turmeric
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

Bring first 4 ingredients and 1 tablespoon oil to boil in large saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; simmer uncovered until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until brown, about 18 minutes. Mix in chili powder and cloves; stir 1 minute.

Stir onion mixture into lentils. Season with pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with curry powder, then cilantro. ENJOY!

Sources:

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