Let’s face it; Americans eat a lot of junk. But why wouldn’t they? Junk food usually tastes better than healthy food.  It has fun packaging, it’s quick to make, it’s relatively appealing.  Plus, healthy foods are intimidating to a lot of people.  Have you ever heard of a kumquat?  Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  What about slicing and dicing all of those crazy veggies?  It’s just too much work, isn’t it?

Health food doesn’t have the flavor profile that most people look for in food.  But don’t blame the healthy fruits and vegetables, succulent meats and fish or the unsalted, unprocessed nuts!  They simply need to be amplified…that’s all!

Eating healthy may be more work, but it’s worth it!  In fact, one of the newest diet trends to come along is the Paleo or “Caveman” diet. Centered on what is believed to be what cavemen ate, the Paleo diet focuses on a eating plan made up of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils. Sound pretty strict? It is. But here are some ingredients to “spice” up (pun most definitely intended) even the blandest of healthy dishes.

  1. Ginger: This very powerful anti-oxidant, effective against flu, fights off a host of viruses.  More importantly, it’s widely used in Indian and Chinese cooking in both savory and sweet dishes. Recipe example: Ginger Me up Chicken.
  2. Turmeric: Turmeric is the ingredient that gives curries their distinctive yellow color (in fact, Hindu brides sometimes paint turmeric on their faces for its color!). It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.  Experts say that it reduces early morning stiffness just as effectively as anti-inflammatory drugs.  Research has found that it is potentially helpful for both cancer prevention and treatment. Recipe example: Green Chicken Masala.
  3. Cinnamon: Cinnamon, arguably the most popular spice in the world, is the dried inner bark of an evergreen tree from the cinnamomum family.  It aids digestion, helps to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, reduce spasms, activates insulin and glucose transport and improves glucose metabolism.  Cinnamon has even been proved to support healthy blood sugar levels. Recipe Example: Cinnamon Granola.
  4. Cloves: Strongly aromatic, containing the volatile oil, eugenol, which has analgesic properties, cloves have long been used to relieve toothaches. Some dentists today even use clove oil after dental extraction!!! Useful against infection, worms, fungal infections (including athlete’s foot) and said to be an aphrodisiac, cloves are commonly used all over the world today! Recipe example: Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub (but you can use this rub to grill anything!).
  5. Fennel: This breath-freshening ingredient has become very fashionable in modern cuisine all around the world. Because of its digestive properties, fennel becomes the perfect after-dinner sweet since it reduces flatulence as well. Recipe example: Fennel and Orange Salad.
  6. Cayenne: Hot and flavorful, cayenne is a great way to kick up the heat in any dish. Made from the dried pods of pungent chili peppers, cayenne improves circulation and is excellent as a topical pain reliever.  Recipe example: Spicy Scallop Salad.
  7. Sage:  This herb sharpens our memory and keeps our moods from swinging, with some studies pointing out that it can put dementia, Alzheimer’s, lack of focus, forgetfulness, and other cognitive problems at bay. Recipe example: Sage and Thyme Salmon.
  8. Thyme: Something we could all use more of!  Thyme has antimicrobial properties that fights food poisoning, contamination, staph, and Escherichia coli that can cause serious infections especially among kids. Recipe example: Roast Beef with Thyme.
  9. Basil: A staple in Italian cuisine actually has its roots in India. Praised for its brawn in dealing with asthma, diabetes, and stress, basil is indeed a super food. Recipe example: Cream of Tomato Basil Soup.
  10. Dill: Known for making pickles actually “pickle”, dill is packed with amino acids, minerals, monoterpenes and flavonoids. This super food has been found to stimulate as well as calm the body, helping people with sleep disorders get ample rest at night. Recipe Example: Lemon Dill Salmon.

Is your mouth watering yet? Good—it should be. With these 10 herbs and spices, your healthy food options are limitless. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and feel free to share your recipes in the comments below!!