The trouble facing most when it comes to preparing healthy meals at home is creating truly flavorful dishes without adding unnecessary fat (butter, oils) and sodium (salt, salt-mix blends, or highly processed packaged foods). Fresh and dried herbs and spices can help! Not only do these kitchen helpers provide an abundance of flavor, they provide additional health benefits with no added calories, fat or sodium.
A staple ingredient when making home-made pesto, basil can be used in a variety of dishes. You can go the traditional route by chopping it finely and adding it to any pasta dish; or switch things up by lightly chopping it and adding it to fresh strawberries or a fruit salad. In addition to the wonderful light flavor, basil also helps deliver vitamins A and K to your body, along with many minerals and antioxidants, making it a powerful helper in improving heart health.
Tip: Add basil at the end of preparing hot dishes so it can retain its flavor and nutrients
A favorite herb in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines, oregano is one of the most antioxidant-abundant herbs around. In fact, Oil of Oregano is a popular supplement that people frequently take for its antioxidant (heart health) and antibiotic (helps fight colds and flu) properties. By adding the fresh or dried herb to any whole grain pasta dish, you will enjoy the health benefits and wonderful flavor of this amazing little herb.
Tip: Visit www.eatright.org to see how to dry your own herbs like oregano at home!
This incredibly flavorful herb (and spice) is the main flavor component in your favorite dips: Salsa and guacamole. What many don’t know is how flavorful the entire cilantro plant is, including the seed, better known as coriander. The cilantro leaves can be added to a variety of dishes, hot or cold, to give a powerful, delicious flavor. The coriander seeds can be a fantastic added ingredient to any dish utilizing garbanzo beans, including homemade hummus.
Whether using the leaves or seeds, you can provide great flavor as well as health benefits to your food. Although research has been limited to animal studies, cilantro and coriander have been shown to aid in blood sugar control and cholesterol support.1
A very common component to flavoring soups and stews, thyme provides a powerful taste as well as antioxidant support for your body. The flavor profile compliments fish, whole grain pasta dishes, and roasted vegetables, making it a versatile and health benefitting herb.
Fresh mint is one of the easiest herbs to add flavor to your diet because of its light refreshing taste. This fresh herb can be added to summer drinks like tea or lemonade, or sliced fruit to bring an extra flavor boost to your favorite summer time snacks.
In addition to fresh and dried herbs and spices, citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges provide a powerful flavor and nutritional benefit when added to foods. Not only from their juice, but the grated peels of these fruits will add tremendous amounts of light refreshing flavor, vitamin C and antioxidants to your favorite seafood, whole grain pasta dishes, and any kind of simple salad.