If someone were to ask you what herbs are, like many people, you would most likely say that they are types of flavorful plants used in cooking. You would be correct about one thing about herbs! Herbs are described as any plants used not only for flavoring food and some drinks, but are also used medicinally and as scents in perfume, and carry a number of health benefits. Fresh or dried, the part of any herb plant best known for culinary use would be the green leaves. Common fresh and dried herbs are basil, thyme, rosemary, and green onion.

So then, what are spices? All spices originate from plants; the parts of plants spices derive from are the dried seeds, root, bark, and bud, and are primarily used for adding flavor to or masking flavors in food. They are also used for food preserving. Whether you are using a plant as an herb or a spice depends on the part of the plant you are using. For example, when you use the leaves of coriander, you are using it as an herb, but the coriander seed is considered a spice. Commonly used spices are cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, and ginger root, all dried and in either ground or whole form.

There is so much more to herbs and spices than just their culinary use for improving the taste and flavors in cooking. They also offer many health benefits. However, with the most common seasonings used in America being salt (a mineral) and black pepper, many people are rarely using the healthiest and most potent herbs or spices that would offer the greatest benefits to their health.

Powerful disease fighting antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, antibacterial properties, and weight loss are some of the health benefits associated with consuming herbs and spices. Another benefit of using more and different seasonings instead of salt is that you will hopefully subtract unnecessary added sodium from your cooking, and, therefore, your diet.

Disease Fighting Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances found in plants, like fruits and vegetables, that may protect cells against the effects of harmful free radicals, and they can contribute to protection against heart disease, cancer, and other diseases and illnesses. Best known antioxidants in herbs and spices include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and selenium. Oregano is one of the top dried herbs for containing the highest antioxidants. It is easy to add oregano to foods – combine into pasta sauces or sprinkle on the top of your homemade pizza.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Herbs and spices have unique protective properties, such as their possible abilities of reducing inflammation. Inflammation is a part of the body’s immune response and occurs when the body attempts to protect itself by working to remove harmful stimuli like damaged cells. It can be an indication of chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of allergies. Spices and herbs can be included in an anti-inflammatory diet to not only add flavor, but to also assist in healing the body. So add a dash here, and a dash there for your health! Cinnamon is an excellent spice for many reasons, reducing inflammation is one. Here is your excuse to make this recipe for homemade Cinnamon Rolls!

Antibacterial and Antiviral Properties

Herbs and spices are not only fantastic for enhancing the flavor of any meal without the extra calories, fat, sodium, or cholesterol, but many offer heart healthy benefits, can even ease physical pain, and have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Most are high in B-vitamins and trace minerals and many contain the same or more disease fighting antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables.

Weight Loss and Weight Management

Spices have the potential to enhance your overall diet for the better by boosting your metabolism, aiding in weight management, and promoting fullness after eating. For example, the capsaicin in peppers may have metabolic boosting properties, and if your food is flavorful and to your liking, there is a good possibility you will feel full and satisfied on less. This will lead to you eating less and consuming fewer calories. The heat substance capsaicin in cayenne pepper is therapeutic and helps relieve aches and soreness. Try this Spicy Sweet Potato Salad for a pinch off your waist!

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