Here are 6 great ways to give your food a flavor kick and boost your health:
1. Garlic is a bulb plant that is known for its strong flavor and a compound called allicin (1). Allicin is found in raw garlic and becomes active after being chopped or crushed. Garlic has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol profile, and fighting against viruses, bacteria and fungi. Garlic is also known for it’s ability to thin the blood. In the kitchen, garlic is very versatile and can be used on salads or added to soups, dressings, grain and bean dishes or homemade dressings.
2. Ginger comes from the ginger root, or rhizome, is a common spice to flavor many dishes (2). Ginger is probably best known for improving nausea but can also aid in digestion by reducing the amount of time it takes to empty the stomach. This spice is able to reduce inflammation by neutralizing pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein. Inflammation caused by osteoarthritis has been especially noted as being improved by using ginger. Ginger can help individuals with diabetes by lowering fasting blood sugar, reduce HbA1C, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin resistance. Individuals can also lower blood triglycerides and low density lipoprotein. In the kitchen, ginger can be added to soups, smoothies, salad dressings, tea, baked goods and dishes from around the world including Indian, Asian, or Northern African dishes.
3. Mint has been used as a traditional “folk medicine” in many countries (3). Mint has numerous compounds in it that have antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties that protects against dental bacterial, ring worm, Candida, etc. The digestion tract benefits from mint by reducing irritation in the mouth and throat, reduces nausea, diarrhea, colic and stomach pain. Mint contains antioxidants which can prevent DNA damage, lipid oxidation, and oxidative stress. Culinary uses include beverages such as tea or added to soups, salad, drinking water, and rice or grain dishes.
4. Thyme is categorized as a wild edible plant that has been added to foods, used as a flavoring agent and medicinal purposes for many centuries (4). Along with many essential oils, thyme contains flavonoids and antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, lutein, pigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin. These antioxidants promote heart health, reduces inflammation, protects against cancer, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Thyme is also high in many vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, calcium, iron, manganese and magnesium. Thyme can be added to homemade salad dressings, vegetable dishes or Mediterranean inspired cuisine
5. Cayenne is derived from red peppers and is best known for its capsaicin that gives foods their hot flavor (5). Cayenne has a numerous health benefits. Idividuals diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis have seen improvements in their inflammation by using cayenne. Its has also been noted to treat food borne illnesses, cluster headaches, gallstones, and chronic muscle pain when applied to the skin. This spice can improve blood lipid profiles by lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, low density lipoproteins and increasing high density lipoproteins. Blood sugar control is improved in people with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Cayenne may also help individuals lose weight by increasing body temperature and satiety. Spice up just about any food you can think of from hummus, salad dressings, soups, or even hot chocolate.
- Garlic (Bayan L, Koulivand PH, Gorji A. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014;4(1):1-14.)
- Ginger (Anh NH, Kim SJ, Long NP, et al. Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):157. Published 2020 Jan 6. doi:10.3390/nu12010157)
- Mint (Mikaili P, Mojaverrostami S, Moloudizargari M, Aghajanshakeri S. Pharmacological and therapeutic effects of Mentha Longifolia L. and its main constituent, menthol. Anc Sci Life. 2013;33(2):131-138. doi:10.4103/0257-7941.139059)
- Thyme (Hammoudi Halat D, Krayem M, Khaled S, Younes S. A Focused Insight into Thyme: Biological, Chemical, and Therapeutic Properties of an Indigenous Mediterranean Herb. Nutrients. 2022 May 18;14(10):2104. doi: 10.3390/nu14102104. PMID: 35631245; PMCID: PMC9147557.)
- Cayenne (Sanati S, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. A review of the effects of Capsicum annuum L. and its constituent, capsaicin, in metabolic syndrome. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2018;21(5):439-448. doi:10.22038/IJBMS.2018.25200.6238)
Author: Misty Hildenbrand, Registered Dietitian