Last week I wrote about using a variety of herbs and spices to create ethnic flavors. Many of those herbs and spices not only provide great flavor and taste but also health benefits.
Turmeric, black pepper and ginger all have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric and black pepper especially work better when ingested together. They are common in many east asian cuisines. Ginger also has anti-nausea capacity and you can find ginger lozenges in the grocery store check out aisles. Ginger adds a wonderful flavor and taste to our smoothies, try it.
Basil, cilantro, oregano, cayenne pepper are all have antioxidant power and help with digestion. Although they lend the best flavor and color when used fresh, dried basil and oregano are just as effective. Cilantro seeds also known as coriander seeds are one of the main ingredients in any Indian Masala. While the cilantro leaves are cooling, the coriander seeds have a warming effect. Combine coriander seeds, cumin seeds and cayenne pepper to make an aromatic and antioxidant spice rub.
Cinnamon is well known and used around the world in almost all cuisines. It has been shown to help regulate blood glucose levels. Fenugreek seeds (commonly used in Indian cooking) also have similar effect. Sprinkle some cinnamon on your cereal, fruits or coffee. Add fenugreek seeds to your spice mixture, grind together and use as rub or marinade.
Let’s not forget the most common and versatile lemons. Lemons are high in vitamin C. Their anti-bacterial property makes them a great for cleaning surfaces. Lemon slices or juice add a fresh taste and a dose of vitamin C to help prevent common colds. The astringent quality of lemons also makes it a great additive for a facial mask.
Go ahead and experiment. Make your meals flavorful and healthy! Enjoy the color, flavor and taste. Love your food.
National Nutrition Month is almost coming to an end. During this month if you made a commitment to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals, increase intake of lean heart healthy protein sources or switch at least half your grains to whole you are on the right track. Keep it up. When experimenting with new foods don’t hesitate to try some some spice combinations too.
Whether it is same old chicken or a combination of veggies or a plain white filet of fish spices can add flavor and variety to make your meals more appetizing and palatable. There are some basic spices combinations that go with particular cuisines. Give it a try.
- Italian: Fresh or dried, basil and oregano make any food become Italian. During Spring and Summer fresh basil adds incredible flavor, color and texture to your pizza, tomato salad or even spaghetti and marinara sauce. Combining basil and oregano adds the peculiar Italian flavor. Add it to sautéed zucchini and summer squash or mix with some olive oil and vinegar and drizzle over the chicken breast/fish filet as a marinade.
- Mexican: Cilantro (or Coriander), Cumin and Jalapeño are the essential flavors to turn a dish into Mexican. Add ground cumin and a sliced (seeded if you don’t want it to be too spicy) jalapeño to heated oil and sauté onions, peppers, mushrooms to make a great side dish. Adding ground cumin, lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro will make any of your salsas instantly flavorful.
- Oriental: Ginger, garlic, red chili peppers and soy sauce of course. Adding sliced garlic and dried red chili peppers to your hot oil for sautéing vegetables or chicken or tofu adds flavor as well as taste. Choose low sodium soy sauce to keep the sodium content in check. Grated fresh ginger in your dish will also brighten the flavors.
- Indian: Cumin powder, chili powder, curry powder, turmeric as well as whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon sticks and cumin and mustard seeds are the hallmark of everything Indian. Almost all Indian dishes start with popping cumin or mustard seeds in heated oil. The popping disperses their flavor through the oil. Turmeric adds the yellow coloring and many health benefits. Try using curry powder to coat your seafood before grilling or pan frying. Add whole cloves and cinnamon sticks to a little heated oil and sauté your brown rice before adding the water. It will flavor the rice aromatically. You can take the whole spices out before serving. Adding fresh cilantro as a garnish is also an Indian tradition.
Give it a try. What cuisine would you like to try tonight? Make dinner international and spice things up. There are many health benefits to using a variety of these herbs and spices too. More on that next week.
During the national nutrition month if your have committed to “Put Your Best Fork Forward” remember that it is a family affaire. Adults in the family needs to lead by example and the younger generation needs to take part in the process of good nutrition.
Make mealtimes a family affaire beginning with meal planning. Unless you know who needs to be at soccer practice, dance lessons, volunteering or a meeting and when it is impossible to plan family meals. Hold a family meeting over the weekend to discuss everyone’s calendars. Plan a weekly menu taking into consideration how much time will be needed to prepare and eat the meal, will the meal have to be portable (to eat on the way) and who will have time to prepare it.
Don’t forget that the meal preparation can also be family time! Almost anyone at any age is capable of helping. Youngest of the family (under 5) can help wash, peel, snap the vegetables, or set the table. A little bit older ones can help chop, stir, assemble a salad, serve and help put away the leftovers. Cooking together is an enjoyable, quality time.
Make a plan for this weekend to bring the family together, plan a menu and put your best fork(s) forward!
In some parts of the country the trees and daffodils are blooming and some are still under a blanket of snow. No matter what, the calendar has turned a page and it is March. March is National Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the nutrition experts (it’s members) celebrate the whole month bringing emphasis to nutrition everywhere. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”.
Click on the link above and learn many simple ways to make your meals healthier. Learn how to read and make sense of the new Nutritional Facts Label on the foods, or how to julienne vegetables. There are videos, recipes and even a way to find an expert near you. Getting personalized nutritional coaching is essential to prevent or delay the onset of chronic illnesses. If you have already been diagnosed with a chronic condition, call a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist today to help you manage it with best, evidence-based scientific knowledge.
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can translate the science into practical tips that you can make part of your lifestyle and sustain for long term. There is no one diet that fits all. Fad diets come and go. Most fad diets are just that; fads! If you are looking to improve your health and wellbeing consult a health care provider who is specifically trained to do so: a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist! Many states have licensure of nutrition professionals to ensure public safety. Wouldn’t you want your health care provider to be licensed?
North Carolina has licensure and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who are licensed to practice Medical Nutrition Therapy have a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN) credential. Look for it when you consider getting help with your diet! You want to put your best fork forward, today and everyday.