by Lauryn Lax
Healthy eating does a body good, but for some people, it can get old fast.
From eggs and spinach, to chicken, sweet potatoes and broccoli, or salmon and asparagus—you know these foods are “healthy,” but the excitement only goes so far—that is until you add some spice to vary things up.
And variety is the spice of life! Especially when it comes to food.
The spices and herbs in your cabinet, and in the produce section at the grocery store can take your homemade dishes from boring and bland, to exciting and delicious (while still being simple and easy to make). In addition, many spices and herbs have natural medicinal and antioxidant properties to turn your food into “medicine.”
Goodbye bland, dry chicken and mushy steamed broccoli…hello savory, crispy, crunchy, spicy, mouth-watering eats to fuel your workouts and health!
Here are 10 tastebud (and body)-boosting spices to take your meals to the next level. As a bonus, you’ll also find 10 easy, paleo-friendly recipes, and meal ideas for inspiration in “how” to use them.
It’s time to put the fun back into cooking and eating again.
10 Spices to Eliminate Healthy Eating Boredom
1. Himalayan Sea Salt
Reach for the pink stuff to season your foods. This salt that contains over 84 minerals and trace elements, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron—doing way more than just make your food taste better. Himalayan salt comes from ancient salt mines 5,000 feet below the Himalayan Mountain Range and is said to be over 99 percent pure.
Although salt gets a bad rep by mainstream nutrition culture, sea salt and Himalayan is different than regular table salt, which only contains one or two elements (sodium and, maybe iodine), and is highly processed (traditionally served in restaurants or packaged into processed, refined foods). In addition, move over Gatorade! Sea salt is a natural electrolyte (helps your cells stay hydrated and absorb water), and it makes an excellent digestive aid as well—helping your body flush out toxins.
Recipe We Love: Crunchy Carrot Fries https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2013/07/coconut-oil-roasted-carrot-fries/
How to Eat It:
Add to ANY dish you cook or prepare and…
Try This Morning Gut Love Cocktail
Add a pinch of fine or ground sea salt to 4-8 oz. warm water, plus half a squeezed lemon and drink in the mornings to stimulate healthy bowels and stomach acidity for the day ahead.
Ginger is the most used condiment in the world today (believe it or not), and one of the most anti-inflammatory “spices” you can add to your foods.
Gingerol in ginger is a natural antioxidant that fights off the harmful affects of inflammatory foods you eat (like Friday night’s Home Slice Pizza), promotes healthy absorption by relieving bloating and constipation, and fights off bacterial infections as an anti-microbial (bacteria-killing aid).
How to Eat It: You can buy it raw at the store typically in the produce section, and slice it fresh to add to dishes, drink it in herbal tea, take 2-3 essential oil drops under your tongue, or consume as the ground powder in dishes you cook.
Recipe We Love: Anti-inflammatory Meatballs: http://grazedandenthused.com/antiinflammatory-meatballs-aipwhole3021dsd/
Similar to ginger, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory spice, common in Indian and Asian-inspired dishes. Turmeric contains the active substance “curcumin” and has been used as a natural “medicine” for hundreds of years help treat depression, pain, blood sugar imbalance, IBS, constipation, skin breakouts and weight management issues. For every day whole-body wellness, turmeric powder is great for boosting gut health.
How to Eat It: Add 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp yellow mustard to eat plain by the spoon to support anti-bloating, anti-leaky gut and anti-constipation efforts, or try “Golden Milk” https://heartbeetkitchen.com/2015/recipes/seasonal/winter/soothing-turmeric-milk/ instead of Bullet Proof Coffee in the morning.
Recipe We Love: Coconut Chicken Curry http://www.thepurpleladle.com/index.php/slow-cooker-coconut-chicken-curry-aip-friendly/
An herb that looks like parsley to add to Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian and Indian-inspired dishes that is packed with vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and magnesium. In ground form, cilantro is known as “coriander.”
Coriander, similar to many other herbs and seasonings, has been used for thousands of years to treat inflammation (like high blood sugar and disease), and diminish digestive dysfunction like gas, fungal, bacterial overgrowth, and parasites.
Recipe We Love: Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Crema http://theemancipatedepicure.weebly.com/blog/fish-tacos-aip
Bonus: Try this simple anti-inflammatory Taco Meat Seasoning for any meat of choice!
Get your “weeds” on—dill weed that is. Dill is a cousin to the celery family traditionally used primarily for the treatment of gut-related and female hormone diseases. It is known to reduce heart burn, stomach ailments and menstrual cramps Other powerful benefits including: naturally lowering cholesterol, aiding in digestion, boosting mood, busting insomnia and anxiety, fighting off bacteria, calming colicky babies and refreshing your breath (i.e. the traditional alternative to chewing breath mints or gum). It adds an aromatic, strong fresh “kick” to many lighter—fare foods—like homemade salad dressings, fish and soup dishes.
How to Eat It: Dill is especially comes in the form of seeds (dill seed or “caraway”), or leaves, and is the perfect compliment added to fish dishes, eggs, chicken or tuna salad, aioli mayonnaise dressings, salad dressings—like Ranch, and potato soups.
Recipe We Love: Simple Dill Chicken Salad https://peaceloveandlowcarb.com/dill-chicken-salad-low-carb-paleo/
A flavorful herb often used in Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes, and pairs well with meats, tomato dishes, and eggs. Perhaps the best known benefit of oregano is its anti-bacterial, immune-boosting properties. In cooking, oregano herb adds a warming aromatic flavor to dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, Italian or Greek-inspired chicken or salmon, shrimp skewers, and hearty winter vegetables—like beetroot and pumpkin salad.
How to Eat It: Add natural herb or dried herbs to dishes, or consume as an essential oil for its anti-bacterial properties. If you ever come down with a cold or flu-like symptoms, a quick at-home remedy is to consume 1-2 drops of oregano oil, diluted with coconut oil, under the tongue, at least 2 to 3 times per day.
Recipe We Love: Grain-Free Spaghetti & Meatballs https://againstallgrain.com/2015/01/06/paleo-spaghetti-and-meatballs/
Get your probiotics on! Sauerkraut is a fermented food that is a natural power house dose of lactic acid bacteria—beneficial for healthy digestion, energy, immunity and mood. Sauerkraut is cabbage that’s mixed with add-ins like apple cider vinegar, caraway, horseradish, and/or sugar and then sits in a cool, dark place to “ferment” —growing natural (healthy) bacterial cultures to feed your gut with “good gut bugs.” It tastes pickle-like, and a little bit goes a long way.
How to Eat It: Top burgers, nitrate-free organic sausage links and brats, or chicken and tuna salad with it. Or eat alone—one to two forkfuls a couple times per day.
Make Your Own: Easy Homemade Sauerkraut http://nourishedkitchen.com//homemade-sauerkraut
8. Nutritional Yeast
Want a nutty, cheesy flavor without the cheese? Look no further than nutritional yeast. Nutritional Yeast is an inactive yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. It is packed full with B-Complex Vitamins (energy boosting vitamins), as well as thyroid (and metabolism) supportive selenium and zinc. In fact, due to its high B-Vitamin profile, it’s excellent for Vegan and Vegetarian diets—often low in these vitamins due to their low complete protein intake. And if you’re lactose intolerant, look no further than nutritional yeast to keep things flavorful.
How to Eat It: Sprinkle atop casseroles, vegetables, baked potatoes, paleo pizza, and proteins of choice, or add to scrambled eggs, soups and paleo-friendly dressings and sauces, like “Paleo Mac & Cheese,” or homemade queso.
Recipe We Love: Paleo Mac & Cheese http://predominantlypaleo.com/paleo-mac-n-cheese/
9. Vietnamese Cinnamon
Also known as “Saigon” Cinnamon, Vietnamese Cinnamon is perhaps the most flavor-rich, and “sweetest-tasting” of cinnamon varieties—especially delicious in savory baked goods or atop sweet root veggies—like butternut squash, sweet potatoes or carrots. Vietnamese Cinnamon has distinctive anti-inflammatory properties to regulate blood sugar levels, bust sugar cravings and promote healing reactions from diseases like IBS, asthma and arthritis.
How to Eat It: Add to winter, root veggies—like butternut and acorn squash, roasted carrots and sweet potatoes.
Recipe We Love: Simple Stuffed Acorn Squash (double the cinnamon) https://www.stupideasypaleo.com/2015/10/17/stuffed-acorn-squash-recipe/
10. Coconut Aminos
Miss soy sauce? No more! Coconut aminos are the universal, paleo (real food) friendly version of soy sauce and worcestershire sauce—no MSG (gluten), refined inflammatory table-salt sodium, or endocrine-disrupting properties (phyoestrogen) included. Coconut aminos are made from the sap of coconuts and a touch of sea salt. Like other coconut products, coconut aminos have anti-oxidant (disease killing) benefits and immune boosting properties.
How to Eat It: Add to Asian dishes, burgers, meatballs, chicken and grilled meats as a marinade.
Recipe We Love: “Emergency” Stir Fry http://nomnompaleo.com/post/4360193712/emergency-protein-aka-garbage-stir-fry
About the Author:
Dr. Lauryn Lax is a Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Functional Medicine Practitioner, author and speaker in Austin, with over 20 years of clinical and personal experience specializing in gut health, intuitive eating, food freedom, anxiety, hormone balance and women’s health. She is also a published journalist, and her work has been featured in Oxygen Magazine, Women’s Health, Paleo Magazine, Breaking Muscle, CrossFit Inc, USA Today, ABC and CBS News. She operates a virtual Functional Medicine & Nutrition practice, Thrive Wellness & Recovery, LLC, working with clients around the world to reinvent the way their body looks, moves and feels.