Expand Your Spice Rack and Herb Garden for Good Health
“Herbs and Spices” is a generalized category to describe plant-based foods that are used in small amounts to enhance the flavor, aroma, and nutritional value of foods and beverages. They or their derivatives are also often used in both traditional and conventional medical treatments.
Many herbs and spices themselves are vegetables, having been derived from the leaves, roots, and stems of certain plants. Some come from the nuts and seeds of plants, and some even come from botanically defined fruits. Sometimes a particular plant, like dill, can produce both an herb(the leaves) and a spice(the seeds).
Technically, herbs are the green leaves of a plant. Basil, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, are examples of common and healthful herbs. They make wonderful compliments to a whole range of dishes, can be used individually or in combination with other herbs and spices as teas, and are staples in many traditional diets.
Spices come from the other parts of the plant besides the leaves, such as flower buds, roots, fruits, seeds, stems, bark, gum and other edible and flavorful plant parts. Typically spices are used and classified in their dried form.
Some examples of spices and what part of the plant they come from:
- Peppercorn and cumin (fruits, peppercorn being a berry)
- Cinnamon (bark)
- Chili (whole fruits and seeds)
- Cloves(flower buds)
- Nutmeg and vanilla (seeds)
Ginger and turmeric are slightly harder to categorize, as they are roots used in both fresh and dried forms, but both are commonly accepted as spices. Garlic is a close relative of onions and is better defined technically as a vegetable; its culinary usage, however, is more as a spice, so will remain here.
This is a very incomplete representation of spices that can be found around the world, there are thousands.
Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices
With such a large variety contained within this healthful eating category, it is hard to specify the individual health benefits of herbs and spices, but they are numerous.
Herbs, being typically a whole food, and a green leafy vegetable to boot, makes most of them extremely healthful sources of phytonutrients, with many antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and they also have very low glycemic indices. Several herbs have been directly connected to aiding in the prevention and management of diabetes as well.
Spices can be powerful sources of nutrition and promoters of overall health, balance and wellness, but each must be treated individually to understand their unique health benefits. Adding any plant-derived spice that is free of artificial additives to a dish is sure to enhance enjoyment, which itself is extremely important in maintaining a healthful mind and body.
Learn More About Specific Herbs and Spices and Their Role in Diabetes Prevention and Management
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