It's time to replace your medicine cabinet with your spice rack, according to 16 research papers published in Nutrition Today summarizing a Science Summit held by the McCormick Science institute and the American Society for Nutrition in Washington, DC. They named four major areas where herbs and spices can impact your health:
1: Spicing Up "Bland" Health Food So You Keep Eating Healthy
Health food has a reputation for being rather boring since it's not loaded up with fat and sugar (two things that taste really good). However, research from the University of Colorado found that adding spices to healthy dishes could make them just as appealing as full-fat versions. This means that "diet" food can be incorporated into a long-term plan for healthy eating.
2: Flavoring Food So You Can Reduce Salt
We turn to salt when our food doesn't have enough taste. Unfortunately, for people with high blood pressure on a low-sodium diet the menu can start looking pretty tasteless. Fortunately, research from Johns Hopkins found that simply adding spices led people to eat 966 milligrams of sodium per day less than those who didn't.
Related: The Best Salt-Free Flavor Enhancers
3: Helping You Feel Fuller, Longer
Not only does food seasoned with herbs and spices taste better, it also makes you feel fuller and boosts metabolism. Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that adding red pepper helped increase satiety, and if you're full, you're less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack later in the day.
4: Reducing Heart Disease Risk Factors
While the healthy-eating strategies above can help you lose weight (which is protective against heart disease), the spices themselves may also have heart-healthy benefits. A review of research from The Pennsylvania State University found that adding spices to even a high-fat meal resulted in lower post-meal insulin and triglyceride levels.
Not sure which herbs to add to your cooking in order to get the most health benefits? Elson Haas, MD, and Sondra Barrett, PhD, authors of Ultimate Immunity, share their favorite immunity-boosting spices next.