March is National Nutrition Month, making it the perfect time to clear up some misconceptions about eating right. To begin with, healthy dishes don’t have to be bland. Herbs and spices are a wonderful aid for a healthy eating regime, both because they provide flavor and nutritional benefits – and they can replace extra fat, sugar and salt in meals without the extra calories.
“Herbs and spices are a natural way to enhance healthy eating efforts,” says Cindy Seaton, a clinical dietitian with Nutritional Services at CoxHealth. “And they’re easy to implement – just a few small additions can make a huge difference.”
But like their distinct benefits, herbs and spices are distinctly different. Learn more about them here:
What are herbs?
Herbs are the leaves of low-growing shrubs, and can aid in healing and strengthening the immune system. They also have many anti-inflammatory properties, which help with issues related to chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Herbs can help in a variety of ways:
- Digestive issues can be helped with dill, chives, rosemary, oregano and basil.
- Respiratory problems may be eased with dill, chives, oregano, thyme and basil.
- Nausea, fatigue or aches and pains have simple herb fixes, too. Chives can help with fatigue, and rosemary can help with those aches and pains and may also improve memory.
What are spices?
Spices come from the bark, root, buds, seeds, berry or fruit of tropical plants and trees. They may fight infection, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, improve heart health, keep skin healthy, regulate metabolism, help with weight loss, strengthen bones, increase digestion, protect against many diseases, protect oral health, treat illness/infections and balance hormones.
A few benefits from spices include:
- Inflammation reduction may tie to cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and turmeric. Such spices are full of antioxidants can reduce chronic inflammation and help in the prevention of illness or infection.
- Digestion and GI issue reduction may be aided with cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and nutmeg.
- The aging process may be slowed with cinnamon for pain management, improved heart health, increased brain function and a potential reduction in blood sugar. Cumin and nutmeg may aid bone health, manage heart rate, improve eyesight and reduce macular degeneration. And, last but not least, turmeric may have protective effects on brain health, preventing a decline in brain function that is associated with aging.