The Power of Herbs and Spices: Fall Edition

The Power of Herbs and Spices: Fall Edition

Dry colorful  spices in spoons and bowls with fresh seasoning on dark rustic wooden background, top view, border

By Rachel Green, Contributing Blogger

Flavor is a significant factor in choosing the foods we eat.  Too often, diners unnecessarily season their food to add or increase much desired flavor, leading to over consumption of sodium, sugar, and fat – the top three flavoring agents.  Before mindlessly seasoning, consider cooking with herbs and spices.

What are Herbs and Spices?
The terms “herbs” and “spices” are typically interchanged, however they carry some distinct differences.  Herbs are leaves of non-woody plants, think basil, sage, and parsley; while spices come from every other part of the plant: roots, flowers, fruits, seeds, and bark.  For example, paprika, coriander, and saffron are spices and usually extend more potent flavor to a dish than herbs.  They do share similarities as well: both are used to flavor food and both offer many health benefits.

Several fall herbs and spices are profiled below:

Cinnamon
This mildly sweet spice has been linked to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics and decreased cholesterol levels.  It is a source of manganese, dietary fiber, and iron, several nutrients of concern in our diet.

Turmeric
Ground from a root, this spice has a high concentration of curcumin, which is linked to anti-inflammatory properties.  Studies have shown that curcumin may help treat rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis, improve liver function, inhibit tumor growth, and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Rosemary
This piney herb has anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects that help stimulate the immune system, circulation, and digestion. It is also touted to help reduce in the severity of asthma attacks.

Ginger
Ground from a root, this spice is most commonly recognized for its ability to help ease motion sickness and nausea.  It also contains the component gingerol, which has been shown to help prevent high blood lipid (or fat) levels.  And surprisingly, one teaspoon of this spice has similar antioxidant levels as 1 cup of spinach!

Nutmeg
Two components of this seed, myristicin and macelignan, have been shown to aid cognitive function. It also has also been shown to help enhance liver and kidney function.  Plus, due to its antibacterial properties, nutmeg helps fight halitosis.

Sage
This herb has been shown to help decrease inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and improve digestion.  It may also help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes due to its hypoglycemic or blood sugar lowering nature.

Thyme
This herb has antibiotic, antifungal, and antiseptic properties, and therefore makes a good natural cleaner for cutting boards.  Thyme also has one of the highest flavonoid levels among herbs. Its leaves are also brimming with minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.

Recipe to Try: Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal
Servings: 8
Prep and cook time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Ingredients:
Nonstick cooking spray
2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup low fat (1%) milk, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.  Coat the bottom of a 8 x 8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine oats, spices, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, raisins, and half of the walnuts in a bowl.  Set aside.
3. To make custard, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
4. Combine custard with pumpkin puree and melted butter.  Then stir in oat mixture.
5. Pour the oatmeal mixture into coated baking dish and use spatula to make the top even. Sprinkle remaining walnuts on top.
6. Bake for 45 min until top is golden brown. Remove baking dish from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
7. Serve fresh from the oven or cold after refrigerating.

Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories: 341; Fat: 19 grams; Saturated Fat: 6 grams; Protein: 9 grams; Carbohydrates: 38 grams; Fiber: 5 grams

 

Rachel Green is a registered dietitian currently working in the food industry.  Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended the University of Delaware for biochemistry but quickly realized her interest in nutrition.  Since completing her dietetic internship at Cornell University, Rachel has enjoyed gaining experience in many aspects of nutrition, from interning at Shape magazine to working as a cooking counselor at a summer camp.  Throughout her career, Rachel aspires to work in nutrition communications, focusing on educating consumers to improve their health and wellness.  In her spare time, she loves cooking (of course), traveling, yoga, hiking, gardening, and a  tasty cup of strong coffee. 

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