Spice Up Your Life - It's Good for You!


One of the best ways to enhance nutrition and improve your health is to bypass processed and pre-packaged foods in favor of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins.  Oftentimes the challenge is convincing our taste buds of that fact.  Many people have become accustomed to the artifically enhanced flavors of most processed foods, not to mention the excessive and addictive amounts of sodium and fat they contain. Spices to the rescue!  The use of natural spices in our food preparation can enhance our taste experience across the board, and spices have other health benfits as well.  So put the can opener back in the drawer and the salt shaker away in the cabinet, and flavor up this week's meals with some of these palate-pleasing spices:

Tumeric - Hailing primarily from India, tumeric is derived from a root that is first boiled and steamed, then dried and ground.  It is a staple of Indian cuisine and provides both rich, golden color (similar to that of saffron) and pungent flavor to grain and meat dishes.  It is also used medicinally throughout Asia for stomach and liver ailments.

Cinnamon - Cinnamon sticks are actually the dried bark of laurel  trees in the cinnamomun family.  Ground cinnamon is probably the most common of the baking spices and is also frequently paired with apples and other fruits.  In the Middle East cinnamon is also used as savory seasoning in chicken and lamb dishes.  Popular since ancient times, the Romans considered cinnamon to be sacred; more recently, studies have suggested that cinnamon may be helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol and help in the regulation of blood sugar for Type 2 diabetics.

Coriander - Another ancient spice, coriander is a seed that comes primarily from Romania and Morocco.  Though its plant is in the cilantro family, coriander is not interchangeable with cilantro in recipes; its distinctive flavor is more reminiscent of lemony sage and lends itself well to Mediterranean, South American, Indian and African dishes as well as stews and marinades.  In parts of Europe, coriander has reputed health benefits for diabetics and is used in India as an anti-inflammatory.  It has more recently been studied in the United States for its cholesterol-lowering effects.

Cooking Tip:  To find flavorful recipes incorporating these spices and others, go to www.allrecipes.com and use the Ingredients search function at the top of the page.  It will return descriptions and article links about the spices, along with a nutritional overview of the recipes themselves.

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.