Herbs and spices can pack a punch, especially when added to your favourite dishes. However, few people realize just how much simple seasonings can benefit their health. From coriander to turmeric, herbs can boost your mental, emotional and physical well-being. Here are a few of the most effective ones and how to use them to spice up your meals.
If you’re looking to add a hint of spice to Mexican or Indian cuisine, try chopped cilantro. This fresh herb is bright green and brimming with health benefits.
Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease with a sprinkle of fresh or dried cilantro. Ground coriander — or cilantro seed — is just as effective when added to meals as it contains linalool, an essential oil that combats anxiety, depression and even insomnia.
Research suggests that cilantro also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. It’s worth adding a few sprigs to your meals if you suffer from aches and pains.
Chives are in the onion family, so they’re sure to add a kick to any meal you use them in. Simply dice up a few thin stalks and use them as a garnish on everything from mashed potatoes to soups to casseroles. They’re also delicious atop sushi and other Asian-inspired cuisines like stir-fry.
On top of being downright delicious, chives also happen to make a nutritious addition to your diet. The herb is super rich in specific vitamins and antioxidants that help fight cancer, boost your bone health and improve sleep.
Perhaps you’ve used basil to make pesto or as a topping on Margherita pizza. This herb is more versatile than most people realize. While it tastes deliciously peppery in practically any Italian recipe, it’s also good in salads, Thai dishes and cocktails. A little goes a long way, so grab a bunch at the grocery store or plant your own herb garden to keep those green leaves growing.
Basil offers a treat for the taste buds, but what does it do for the rest of your body? This herb has antibacterial properties and can inhibit the growth of various moulds, yeasts and bacteria. Some varieties can reduce blood sugar levels and treat anxiety and depression.
The active ingredient in rosemary is rosmarinic acid, a powerful substance that can do wonders for your sinuses. Got allergies? Try adding some rosemary to a lemon or butter-based chicken dish. The meal will suppress your allergic response and reduce nasal congestion so you can breathe easily and taste what you’re eating.
Rosemary is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can boost circulation and improve the immune system. Even the aroma of this potent herb can improve your mood and clear the mind. Feel free to open the oven and take in a few big whiffs as dinner cooks.
Sage has a strong reputation for its healing properties. Many people even burn dried bundles of the herb within their homes to cleanse the space and promote wisdom. The ancient Romans and Egyptians used it to treat digestive issues, memory problems and sore throats, so it makes sense that sage is still a popular herb today.
Sage complements a wide variety of flavours, especially during the fall. Autumn flavours in dishes like roasted butternut squash, pumpkin lasagna and grilled cheese all pair well with a sprinkle of dried sage. Some meats, including turkey and sea bass, also taste better with a pinch of this delicious herb.
If you’ve ever had Indian food, you’ve likely tried turmeric. This bright yellow spice is a staple in many Eastern cultures, and just a spoonful is enough to tinge an entire pot of soup, rice or golden milk a beautiful sunny hue. It also adds a pungent, earthy-sweet taste to practically any dish.
Turmeric comes with a plethora of health benefits, such as the potential to improve heart health, prevent cancer and ward off Alzheimer’s disease. It can even relieve symptoms of arthritis and depression and minimize pain, no matter where it hurts. Add a sprinkle of ground turmeric to eggs, tofu, chicken, rice and whatever else you think could use a spicy kick.
Peppermint should be your go-to herb of choice when you want to freshen your breath or brighten up a spring salad. Aside from using it to make tea or refreshingly delicious cocktails, you can use mint in pestos, dukkah, pasta, fritters and more. When in doubt, add a sprig atop fruity or chocolatey desserts to really make your taste buds tingle.
Eating this herb can calm irritable bowel syndrome and relieve indigestion, whether you sip mint tea or consume the plant’s leaves. It’s also high in iron, vitamin A and antioxidants, like many other leafy green herbs on this list.
Adding More Healthy Herbs to Your Diet
Adding healthy herbs to your diet doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, most will complement a wide variety of dishes, so there’s certainly room for experimentation. Add fresh or dried herbs to dinners, desserts, drinks and more to discover the tastiest — and healthiest — combinations. The more recipes you try, the more apt you are to make herbs a staple ingredient in your kitchen.
Mia Barnes specializes in writing about sustainable, healthy nutrition. She is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind and contributes at many other outlets across the web.