Southern California may not go through a proper change of seasons the way much of the rest of the country does, but you can still bring a little taste of autumn to your home. More than sweet potatoes and pumpkins, spices are what really say, “the weather is getting colder and the holidays are almost here!” Besides adding some low-calorie kick to your foods and a pleasing scent to your kitchen, many herbs and spices have been prized for centuries for their health benefits. Read on to learn more, including how to add these new flavors to your existing dishes and other fall favorites.
Nutmeg is probably the first spice you think of at this time of year – it gives pumpkin pie and all of the pumpkin-spiced products their rich, warm tastes. It’s made from the kernel of an exotic fruit, and it’s been used all over the world for a variety of medicinal purposes, including as a digestive aid and an antibacterial agent. Looking to stave off Alzheimer’s and boost your brain? Add nutmeg to your shopping list. Just don’t eat too much of it, as it can cause hallucinations.
Cinnamon is one of the most versatile spices there is, but did you know that cinnamon is a wellness powerhouse? Some research says that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar and is good for those with diabetes: it’s a sugar-free way to add a sweet taste. Add it to coffee, tea, oatmeal, or any other food that can use a hint of sweetness. It’s a great source of antioxidants that are good for your heart and your brain function. Bonus: cinnamon delivers a festive fragrance to your home.
Allspice combines sweet and savory tastes like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The versatile spice can be used in both meat dishes and desserts. For centuries, allspice has been used as a folk remedy for stomach aches, menstrual cramps, colds, and general pain relief. Many of these effects have been studied and proven by science. Researchers are looking into whether it can help prevent cancer, but so far, there’s no conclusive proof.
Ginger isn’t just for cookies or sushi. This spice, made from the root of ginger plants, will add some spicy, sweet drama to anything you use it in. Grate it fresh for salad dressings and marmalades, cook it up with squash and other vegetables, add it to baked goods, or drink it as a tea. Ginger is one of the most studied spices in the world for its healing properties: it’s proven to relieve pain, calm your stomach, and reduce inflammation.
Celery seed has a distinctly bitter taste that makes it an easy, lower-sodium alternative to salt. Salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, so the next time you’re cooking up a hearty stew, casserole, or meat-based dish, reach for the celery seed instead. Celery also contains bone-building calcium and iron, a nutrient that’s critical for many of your body’s functions.
Saffron is most famous for the vivid yellow color it gives to foods. It’s popular around the globe, used commonly in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes – you may have already had it in paella and other rice dishes like risotto or pilaf. It’s got a similar sweet, musky flavor to vanilla, so you can try experimenting by adding saffron where you’d normally add vanilla (yogurt, baked goods). A little goes a long way: not only in your cooking but for your health. Saffron is thought to promote heart health and fight PMS. One study even showed that saffron-infused dishes created a greater feeling of satiety, or fullness, which helped participants lose weight.
Eat Healthy, All Year ‘Round
If the 80-degree weather is keeping you from really getting into a fall mood, you’re in luck, since we enjoy a bounty of fruits and vegetables all year long. In addition to a variety of delicious apples and pears, you can still get cherries and berries to healthfully satisfy your sweet tooth.
Even if your brain is still stuck in summer, the holiday season is right around the corner! Don’t let all the festivities derail your healthy habits: get advice for healthful eating away from home, and see the simple switches that can make your home-cooked meals a little bit healthier.