Spice Up Your Life and Your Health for the Holidays!

Marie Veselsky, RD, LD, CDE, BC-ADM

Spices have been used for centuries not only to give food flavor, but also for their health benefits. This was more so in the past versus modern day society. Nowadays many people may only use spices or herbs at Thanksgiving in their turkey stuffing.

So maybe it is time to “Spice up Your Life and Your Health!”

Start by trying some new recipes at Thanksgiving and Christmas that include several spices or herbs.

National nutrition guidelines stress the importance of consuming a wide variety of food. The healthy nutrition message is now one of increasing food variety and diversity to maximize the range of nutrients consumed on a regular basis. Herbs and spices naturally fit within such programs. Generally, the leaf of a plant used in cooking is referred to as an herb, and any other part of the plant, often dried, as a spice.

Here are a few common spices/herbs and their health benefits:

  • Rosemary is known as a potent antioxidant. It is anti-inflammatory, and neutralizes free radicals in the body. This may give it anti-cancer fighting abilities. Add rosemary, along with your other favorite spices, to your holiday turkey stuffing.
  • Parsley is rich in many vital vitamins, including Vitamin C, B12, K and A. This means parsley keeps your immune system strong, tones your bones and heals the nervous system, too. Regular use of parsley can help control your blood pressure. Parsley fits in many holiday dishes.
  • Chives might help your body digest your food better and make use of more nutrients food offers. Chives work by getting rid of bacteria, yeast and fungi in your intestinal tract so that your entire digestive system works as it should. Mashed potatoes with chives and garlic added is perfect at any holiday meal.
  • Garlic may improve your heart’s health. Studies suggest that an intake of between half and one clove per day can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels by an average of 10 percent. One way to increase your garlic intake is to add minced garlic and chopped cucumber to plain yogurt for a light dip or salad dressing.
  • Cinnamon has been found to help lower blood glucose and may help prevent heart disease. A 2003 study found that about half a teaspoon each day lowered blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Add cinnamon to your holiday pumpkin and apple pies.

The safety of herbs (because they are a food) is very good, but if you take any medications and use a lot of an herb or spice, you should check with your doctor to make sure there are no potential food/drug interactions.

Choice Center for Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) & Choice Center for Diabetes & Weight Loss, Integrated Optimal Health, has been an AADE Accredited Diabetes Center since September 2014.  Most insurance accepted.