10 Easy-to-Grow Superfood Herbs and Spices
Using herbs and spices is one of the easiest ways to enhance the flavor of your food. And they’re certainly healthier than adding salt or sodium-laden condiments such as soy sauce, salad dressings and dips. Because they’re plant-based, they’re also high in antioxidants and minerals and can boost the nutritional value of your meal.
While herbs and spices bought at a supermarket are convenient, their taste doesn’t compare to fresh varieties. Of course, you can buy fresh herbs, but you can grow your own, too. Herbs and spices don’t require the amount of land that fruit and vegetable gardens do – you can cultivate an herb/spice garden in your yard or simply use flowerpots on a windowsill.
Which ones should you choose? It all depends on your taste buds. Here are 10 herbs and spices that are easy to grow and renowned for their benefits as part of a healthy diet.
The more than 60 varieties of basil available have different aromas and flavors. Sweet basil, the most common type, has a peppery, slightly sweet flavor and goes well with many soups, pastas, sauces, poultry dishes and baked goods. Studies suggest sweet and holy basil may help control stress, aging, blood sugar and blood pressure.
Oregano is part of the mint family. It’s usually categorized as Mediterranean or Mexican and, in some circles, it’s referred to as Spanish thyme or wild marjoram. Oregano has an earthy flavor and is commonly used in Italian recipes like pizza and pasta sauces; Mexican recipes for pozole and chimichurri sauce and olive oil-based salad dressings. Studies suggest oregano may have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and may help control blood sugar.
Rosemary is an evergreen herb with a piney flavor. It’s commonly used in potato, squash, artisanal bread, gravy and stuffing recipes. Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid, which is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins A and K. Although more research is needed, it’s credited has having anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It also may improve concentration, aid digestion and slow brain aging.
Sage is considered a sister herb of rosemary, as it also has rosmarinic acid and many of the same nutrients.
Its strong flavor works well with many red meat and poultry dishes and can be used in pasta sauces, omelets and frittatas. Experts think sage has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory benefits and may slow brain aging.
There are several varieties of thyme with common thyme being used most often for culinary and therapeutic purposes. Thyme has a sweet, slightly mint flavor and is a common ingredient in French soups and stews, Southern Italian pasta sauces and many vegetable dishes. Thyme leaves have thymol, an antiseptic compound that can sooth coughs and sore throats. Some studies suggest thyme also has antimicrobial and anticancer benefits.
Cumin is part of the parsley family. It has an earthy, spicy taste that’s probably best recognized in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Cumin is a good source of iron and antioxidants and has been found to aid digestion and lower the risk of food-borne infections.
Fennel seeds are another spice regularly called for in many Indian recipes. They have a sweet, licorice taste and are a good source of heart healthy minerals such as copper, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, selenium and magnesium.
Garlic is part of the Allium family which also includes onions, shallots and leeks. Its distinct flavor that makes it a popular ingredient in many recipes and cultures. But garlic is more than just tasty. One of its compounds - sulfur - has antibacterial benefits and is particularly helpful for clearing and controlling skin conditions. And garlic is a good source of vitamins B6, C and a handful of minerals.
Ginger is a root with a spicy flavor and many health benefits. Unlike many herbs and spices, it can be consumed throughout an entire meal -- appetizers, salads, soups, main and side dishes, desserts and beverages. Since it’s a plant, it’s a good source of antioxidants and can help lower inflammation, which can help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s well-known for easing nausea and upset stomach, and some studies suggest it has anti-microbial and anti-tumor properties.
Turmeric is a root cultivated from a flowering plant in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. It’s easily recognized in dishes by its distinctive taste and goldenrod color. It’s a versatile spice that can be added it to many egg, rice and sauce recipes. Studies suggest it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities. It’s currently used to ease muscle and joint pain and researchers are studying if it can help prevent cancer.
Herbs and spices are a flavorful and nutritious addition to recipes. If you’re interested in eating a healthier diet, talk to your primary care doctor. If you need a physician, consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you develop a personalized wellness program that includes nutrition. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »