It’s no secret that adding plant-based meals to your diet is important for good health. But, did you know that adding spices to your meals can be equally as important? Spices come from the seeds, roots, bark, or other parts of a plant. This means, they can carry similar health benefits to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Here is a quick list of top spices that have been proven to do a body good:

Cinnamon: Now very common, cinnamon was a rare and valuable commodity dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. It contains a compound known as cinnamaldehyde, which is responsible for most of its known health benefits. Research indicates that cinnamon is especially helpful for people with type 2 diabetes, where its use can improve blood glucose, triglyceride and LDL values. It also contains high levels of antioxidant polyphenol compounds, which protect the body from damaging free radicals. Try adding it to your smoothies, hot cereal, or even coffee grounds before brewing to up your intake.

Turmeric: This vibrant yellow spice has been used for centuries in cooking, as well as for its medicinal properties. The majority of the health benefits are due to the presence of curcuminoid compounds, especially curcumin. Curcumin is both a potent anti-inflammatory, an effective antioxidant, and is showing promise in protecting the brain from various degenerative processes. Turmeric (or, yellow curry, where it is the main component) can be easily mixed into sauces, dressings, dips, and salads like tuna, chicken, or egg. It can also be used to make “golden milk”, by heating a cup of milk with 1 tsp turmeric, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ginger, and a bit of maple syrup for sweetness.

Ginger: Another potent antioxidant, ginger, also has a long history of medicinal use. It can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or in an oil for both its unique flavor as well as its health benefits. The main active component of ginger is gingerol, which is responsible for its fragrant smell and flavor. Ginger is effective for the treatment of nausea, may be helpful in reducing the pain associated with inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and may help improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Ginger’s unique spicy flavor blends well into both sweet, and savory dishes. Or, it can be steeped in hot water for a soothing tea.

The best part? These potent spices not only liven up our food and improve our health, but they also don’t add any significant calories to our diets. Try something new today! For more ideas, contact a Nutrition Specialist and check out the recipe library.