Herbs and Spices
Undeniable Health and Dietary Benefits
Herbs and spices are the most antioxidant-rich of all food types - they also contain other important elements that have had profound health benefits on mankind throughout the ages. Not only do antioxidants assist in slowing down the aging process, they also help protect our vital organs from oxidative stress that could effectively amplify the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other chronic disease.
Using herbs and spices for meal preparation expands your palate without the extra calories, and may even reduce the amount of salt, fat, and sugar you consume without sacrificing flavour. Herbs are the fresh and dried leaves generally of temperate plants and are usually green in colour. Spices are the flowers, fruit, seeds, bark, and roots typically of tropical plants and range from brown to black to red in colour.
In general, spices have a more overpowering flavour than herbs. It is also possible for the same plant to provide a herb and a spice. For example, the Coriandrum sativum plant, the leaves are used, either fresh or dried as the herb cilantro, while the seed is used as the spice coriander.
Egyptian schools of herbalists have existed since 3000 B.C. Scholars were interested in the use of herbs and spices for medicinal purposes - The Ebers Papyrus (an Egyptian scroll dating back to approximately 1550 B.C.) listed various plants that were being used as medicines. Some spices listed on the Egyptian scroll are anise, mustard, saffron, cinnamon, and cassia. Cinnamon and Cassia are native to south-eastern Asia and China, but not Egypt. The scroll also serves as evidence that the spice trade was in existence at least 3,500 years ago.
We now understand that the bright colours and sharp flavours of herbs and spices are characteristics of the important phytonutrients that these plants contain. Many of the pungent, stronger-tasting, and richly coloured plant species contain an assortment of "non-nutritive compounds" that have profound health benefits.
When consumed individually, many herbs and spices are unpleasant to the taste. However, these plant species, in the absence of tastier alternatives, were frequently the only forms of nourishment available to our ancient ancestors. This was an unexpected dietary hardship and one that resulted in accidental, but very important, self-medication. Suffice to say that this dietary hardship was actually responsible for the discovery of these valuable health promoting nutrient compounds.
Another factor that influenced their palatability was the relative strength of flavours between different foods types. It is necessary to consider that most of the fruit and vegetable species eaten by early societies were much stronger tasting and not as sweet as they are today. In fact, the majority of modern plant-food cultivars bear very little resemblance to those varieties that once grew thousands of years ago. The bitter, sour and astringent flavours that characterised fruits such as apples, melons, pears and many others, have been bred out by generations of selective propagation.
We now know that many of the strongly flavoured plant compounds that give plants protection against insect and microbial attack, are the same compounds that preserve our bodies and vital organs, by protecting us against degenerative diseases.
Herbs and Spices for Healthy Diet Supplements!
The deficiency of herbs and spices in the diets of those of us living in most western countries means that we are depriving our bodies of many important compounds that have been used by our physiological and homeostatic mechanisms to protect us from innumerable diseases.
We really need to consume a variety of herbs and spices on a daily basis to achieve and maintain good health. As with most things regarding healthy lifestyle habits, moderation is the key. It is more advantageous to include constant small doses of herbs and spices to your diet, than it is to consume the occasional large dose. Consuming herbs and spices can also give the sensation of contentment by adjusting brain chemicals, therefore allowing us to think more clearly, age more slowly, and at the same time provide assistance to our body organs to resist the onslaught of afflictions like cancer, heart disease and other chronic degenerative disorders.
Extensive medical research has found that nutrients in cloves, fenugreek, ginger, oregano, rosemary, turmeric and many other spices can help to prevent cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.
Herbs and Spices are rich in Phytonutrients - A multitude of healthy, spicy plant constituents that have potent anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-toxin and countless other health promoting properties.
The addition of herbs and spices can most certainly enhance the taste of almost any meal. Include some turmeric, pepper, chilli, or cumin to rice and mashed potatoes. sprinkle herbs and spices on poultry, fish, and meats before cooking, add your favourite herbs and spices to vegetable dishes after cooking and while they are still steaming. Sprinkle marjoram, thyme, mint, or rosemary over your salads. Spice up your already healthy vegetable smoothies, and how about flavouring sour cream or cottage cheese with your favourite herb or spice for dips when entertaining. Whatever method you decide to use, please rest assured that including herbs and spices to your diet means adding an abundance of extra healthy benefits.
Top Cancer Researcher
Prof. Bharat Aggarwal, Professor of Cancer Research, University of Texas.
"Variety is truly the spice of life. There are hundreds of clinical trials involving spices. From laboratory to kitchen, our findings are the same - there's a synergistic effect when you combine spices. So a little bit of this and a little bit of that makes sense. The true medicinal value of spices is only now beginning to be unveiled."