Add herbs and spices to your cooking for their health benefits as well as flavor.

Spice Up Your Menu to Boost Your Health

Modern science is now confirming what healers knew thousands of years ago. Spices and herbs aren’t just for flavor, they can help keep you healthy. Here are five herbs and spices that can turn your kitchen cabinet into nature’s medicine chest.

1. Turmeric

This bright yellow spice, which gives curry its distinctive taste, contains compounds that can reduce inflammation and may prevent a host of age-related illnesses including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. The primary of these compounds is curcumin, and scientists are studying curcumin’s effects on headaches, menstrual cramps, and bronchitis as well as the conditions above. Turmeric is easy to add to any savory dish, and some people add curcumin to smoothies for even more benefit.

2. Cinnamon

In medieval times, healers prescribed cinnamon to treat coughing, sore throats, and aching joints. Today, we know they had it right – cinnamon has the highest content of immune-protective antioxidants of any spice. Add it to baked goods and sprinkle it on toast, cereal, and tea to help relieve gas, nausea, muscle spasms, and maybe even common colds.

3. Basil

Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, basil is being studied for its ability to protect against viruses, digestive disorders and even cancer. Dried, it’s essential for any Italian dish and for soups, stews, and grilling. Grow fresh basil on your kitchen windowsill so you have it to make a classic caprese salad whenever you have fresh tomatoes on hand.

4. Garlic

A relative of onions and chives, freshly chopped or crushed garlic may suppress the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi, reduce risk of cancer, and prevent cardiovascular disease.

5. Mint

Used all over the world to soothe troubled tummies, mint has a proven ability to ease nausea and digestive issues. And it’s a key ingredient in some Middle Eastern dishes such as tabouli salad. Peppermint and spearmint are also cooling, so add mint to tea, lemonade and even cocktails.

Fresh herbs are so high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that they count as a serving of vegetables. Here are some ideas and tips for cooking with fresh herbs. A little goes a long way, so experiment with spicing up your favorite dishes and enjoy them even more.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.