Herbs and spices add a burst of flavour to any meal, but did you know that the ones you choose could also boost your wellbeing?
Below, we explore the swaps you may need to make in order to achieve your health goals.
To watch your weight…
Swap black pepper for cayenne
This bright red, fiery pepper stimulates the body’s stress response which then reduces appetite and cuts the number of kilojoules you consume, says Professor Mary-Jon Ludy from Bowling Green State University in the US.
Cayenne also increases metabolism so you could burn about 42kJ more after eating it, she adds. You need about half a teaspoon of cayenne at a meal to get results.
To protect your memory…
Swap thyme for rosemary
“Rosemary improves circulation to the brain and has been shown to help improve memory,” says naturopath Katherine Maslen.
Rosemary is also linked to longevity. Acciaroli, a village in Italy, is home to more than 300 residents aged over 100 and it’s believed the high levels of rosemary in their diet may be one reason for their long lives.
To get extra antioxidants…
Swap nutmeg or cinnamon for Allspice
Made from the dried berries of the Jamaican pimento tree, allspice will give a more pungent kick than the traditional spices used in sweet dishes but, on average, it contains four times more antioxidants than nutmeg and 25 per cent more than cinnamon.
Prefer savoury to sweet? “Allspice contains eugenol, the same oil found in the leaves of the herb basil, which means it works well in the same dishes that basil does,” explains Ian Hemphil, director of Herbie’s Spices. Try it in rich tomato sauces or meaty stews.
To ease joint pain…
Swap oregano for basil
Fresh basil leaves contain natural oils with known anti-inflammatory properties that make it a good swap for arthritis sufferers. Inflammation is behind much of the pain associated with arthritic conditions.
On top of this, you’ll get a bone boost from making the swap as basil contains higher levels of bone-building minerals than oregano. One teaspoon of dried basil contains twice the vitamin K, twice the magnesium and nearly 10 per cent more calcium.
To lift your mood…
Swap ginger for turmeric
Spicy ginger tea might feel comforting, but for a longer-lasting mood boost try a warm drink containing turmeric which has known antidepressant properties.
“It used to be thought that depression was caused solely by a deficiency in a neurotransmitter called serotonin, but it’s far more complicated,” says psychologist Dr Adrian Lopresti from Murdoch University in Perth.
“Depression is also associated with inflammation, free radical damage and disturbances in stress hormones. A substance called curcumin, derived from turmeric, can normalise all of these factors.”
To fight ageing…
Swap tarragon for parsley
Both work well in sauces for foods like chicken or fish but to fight ageing, pick parsley. Parsley is one of the top 10 SIRT foods identified by Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, authors of the bestselling book The Sirtfood Diet.
SIRT foods contain nutrients that activate proteins in the body called sirtuins. Sirtuins help protect cells from dying and therefore fight ageing.
To balance your hormones…
Swap peppermint for spearmint
Drinking two cups of spearmint tea a day for a month can lower levels of testosterone and reduce the excess hair growth often associated with polycystic ovary syndrome. But that’s not the only benefit of this swap.
“Spearmint also contains higher levels of an ingredient called rosemarinic acid than peppermint and this is shown to have antioxidant, antiviral and anti-allergic actions,” says Maslen.