Herbs and spices have been around for centuries. People have used various spices to create dishes that were unique in taste and experience. The right combination of herbs and spices can turn ‘food’ into a ‘good meal’.
A good meal
A good meal is something to enjoy, something that lights up your brain, excites your taste buds, a good meal is not just healthy, not just fuel for your body, it is an experience, it’s a sensation that your body craves everyday. A good meal is something you don’t mind having for leftovers, even for days.
What makes a good meal
A good meal is basically a food or a dish that creates a memorable experience for you when you eat it. You remember its taste and how it felt to eat it even after a week.
Spices are more than just ground up seeds and plants, spices have the capacity to trigger our brain’s chemical pathways in more than one way, spices give aroma (sense of smell), color (sight), flavor (sense of taste) and texture (sense of touch) to your food. Each herb and spice have unique chemical compounds that trigger those pathways in our brain.
The most useful spices to have
While there are hundreds of herbs and spices that one can use to create that perfect taste of their favorite dish, there are a few that stand out the most. The most useful ones that are a must have in your kitchen, especially for their health benefits. They are as follows:
1- Garlic – Garlic can be minced, chopped, blended or can be bought powdered. It is no.1 due to how it can be used in virtually any cuisine like pasta, sauces, meats soups, veggies, etc. Apart from the taste it brings to your meal, it also brings some health benefits to you, like lowering your blood pressure, boosting immunity and it could possibly lower harmful cholesterol as well.
2- Turmeric – Another addition to useful spices to have is turmeric. I’m sure you’ve already heard of the health benefits turmeric brings to your body, such as reducing inflammation of your brain (which has been linked to depression and cognitive decline), lower and/or possibly prevent heart diseases. It might have something to do with a component of turmeric called curcumin, an anti-oxidant. Apart from the health benefits, turmeric also brings aromatic scent to your food like potatoes, salads and even added to your smoothies (in small quantities).
3- Oregano – This herb is something that I think everyone has heard of, and it’s like a staple for pizza eaters. But that’s not the only way it can be used, oregano has an amazing, strong aromatic flavor that can transform your food, but don’t overuse it either. Oregano is used quite commonly in Italian cuisines, but is also used in Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines. Apart from the taste, oregano also has been known to have some health benefits like containing Vitamins E and K, iron, calcium and anti-oxidants, helping you prevent cell damage caused by free radicals and helping prevent the risk of heart disease.
4- Cinnamon – Cinnamon is the most popular spice, especially in baking. It brings a subtle sweetness to your meal that satiates without bringing the hazards of having sugar. Especially in foods like French toast, pastries, etc. Of course, it’s not just for sweet meals, as cinnamon is quite commonly used for savory meals to balance them out. Cinnamon has probably the most famous health benefits like controlling blood sugar, especially for diabetics, cinnamon is also a spice that is high in anti-oxidants and has potential to reduce the risk of heart diseases and improve sensitivity to insulin which can help prevent type 2 diabetes (it is however, not a substitute for the actual medicine for the condition). It can also possibly help stop the growth of certain bacteria, preventing infections.
5- Paprika – This amazing and flavorful spice is something of a personal favorite of mine. It can add the perfect amount of spiciness to your food and it comes in different types, some more on the sweeter side, some hot, some a blend of two. It is perfect, in my experience, to add it to your homemade patties and can be used as a garnishing. It’s health benefits include reduced inflammation for certain nerve based autoimmune conditions, may help increase HDL (good cholesterol), is a great anti-oxidant, is also rich in Vitamins A, E and B6.
Other herbs and spices to include to widen your range of spices;
- Black pepper – Great for garnishing.
- Cumin – Great for digestion. Used for earthy flavor.
- Peppermint – Good to add in tea.
- Cayenne pepper – great to prepare spicy dishes. great for fat burning and reducing appetite, effectively making it useful for fat loss.
- Rosemary- Prevent allergies. Great for its flavor and fragrance.
- Ginger – For nausea. Best used in tea.
- Cloves – Perfect for adding a powerful flavor to your dish. Good for liver health and blood sugar.
- Coriander – Good for curries, soups, salads, chutneys.
- Garam masala – Used in many Indian dishes, gives a great rich and spicy flavor.
- Salt- I know it’s not a herb or a spice, it’s a mineral, but let’s face it, without salt, our food would be quite bland in taste. So, it gets an honorable mention as well. Health benefits of it being, a good source of Sodium.
A simple advice for preserving the flavor and aroma of your spices is to store them according to the directions on the label. If you don’t buy spices with a label, then just follow a simple rule of buying them in small quantities and using them up quickly. You can buy some spices whole and then ground them up, then store them in air tight containers, out of reach from any place with moisture, i.e. in a cool, dry place with no sunlight. They will keep the flavor for well over six months.
I love cooking, I’ve always loved it and now, I’m finally able to do it freely without restrictions. Learning new things about the wonderful world of culinary arts, is something that I’m quite excited about and I hope to compliment any new thing that I learn with my current knowledge and experience in Health, Fitness and Nutrition. Learning about spices was one of the first things I did when I started cooking and it was/is awesome! Learning how much the herbs and spices we use influence the flavor, aroma and sensation of the meals that we eat, was something far greater than I ever could’ve possibly imagined and I know I have a lot more to learn as well and I am looking forward to it.
That’s it. Thanks for reading.