Add Spices and Herbs to Improve Health and Wellness by Joan Zurkan, MS, RD, CNSD


Ancient and recent studies have shown that common, everyday spices and herbs have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Antioxidants help slow, prevent and repair damage to our bodies done by free radicals. Antioxidants can protect you against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Many spices and herbs are rich sources of natural antioxidants.  Cloves, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, sage, peppermint, thyme and lemon balm lead the pack.

Many herbs and spices fall within the category of powerful anti-inflammatory superfoods because they are rich in phytochemicals. Inflammation has been identified as a precursor to many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, atherosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, allergies, and Alzheimer’s and more. Spices and herbs can be included in your diet to not only add flavor but to also assist in healing the body.  Garlic, ginger, tumeric, cinnamon, oregano, sage, black pepper, rosemary, basil, cardamon, chives, cilantro, cloves, and parsley are a few.

Several pilot and clinical trials in humans have demonstrated the effect of spices or spice extracts to reduce fat intake, increase satiety, and/or affect metabolism. Capsaicin (found in red pepper) may contribute to minor weight loss and a slight increase in metabolism and possibly increase satiety (the feeling of fullness and not wanting to eat more) along with decreasing fat and caloric intake.

Spices and herbs have the potential to improve the quality and variety of your diet. They can be used as alternatives for sodium, sweeteners and possibly saturated and trans fats. Preparing curries with spices, marinating food with herbs, and adding herbs and spices to fruits and vegetables are some ways to increase the appeal of a nutrient dense diet.

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