Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: 12 Culinary Herbs with Health Benefits

THE herbs and spices you use in your cooking do more than just add flavor to your food.

Herbs have been known for their medicinal benefits for centuries and research shows that various herbs and spices have powerful benefits for our health.

From antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect to digestive support and immune balance, the benefits of adding herbs and spices to your cooking are diverse.

The beautiful colors, flavors and aromas of your favorite herbs and spices are due to their bioactive constituents, including sulfur compounds, tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids.

Whether a spicy curry or an herb omelet is your cup of (herbal) tea, there’s bound to be one on my list of favorites that you can add a little extra to your diet.

1. CINNAMON – this sweet spice has been associated with balancing blood sugar. It is thought to do this through different mechanisms, including managing blood glucose level and improving insulin sensitivity.

2. ROSEMARY – Adding a taste of this Mediterranean herb to your dinner could add a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds to your diet. It has also been shown to help support healthy estrogen metabolism.

3. MINT – most people know that peppermint tea has benefits for digestive support. It’s an easy plant to grow, but make sure you keep it in a pot and don’t plant it in your garden or it will take over.

4. GARLIC – used by many as a simple cold remedy, garlic’s active ingredients, including allicin, are what give this herb its pungent aroma. There is also research linking garlic to cardiovascular health. When cooking with garlic, it is best to add it towards the end of cooking, so as not to destroy the active constituents.

5. THYME – traditionally used by herbalists as a cough expectorant. The volatile oils of thyme can also be used as a steam infusion for colds to aid breathing.

6. TURMERIC – with anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antioxidant effects, turmeric is something that should be in everyone’s spice rack. It’s the spice that gives curry its yellow color, but it can be added to soups, scrambled eggs, salad dressings, or even used to make healthy drinks like turmeric tea or turmeric latte.

7. GINGER – a favorite of mine, this versatile spice is useful for digestive support and has traditionally been used for colds and sore throats alongside lemon and honey.

8. PARSLEY – thought to have urinary tract health benefits and has been used traditionally for bladder infections.

9. FENNEL SEEDS – have traditionally been used as an after-dinner digestive and are believed to help alleviate gas and wind…

10. LEMONGRASS BALM – with its calming properties, lemon balm is a lovely herb to have in a jar on your doorstep to make a gentle infusion for a relaxing herbal tea to balance your mood.

11. SAGE – has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and is used as an ingredient in herbal remedies to relieve excessive sweating associated with menopause. Other studies reveal that sage can improve memory function in healthy people, so definitely one to add to the jar.

12. OREGANO – rich in antioxidants that can balance inflammation. It is believed to have antibacterial action and may even have antiviral properties.

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