Herbs and spices offer impressive health benefits and can greatly enhance the micronutrient and phytochemical content and flavour of your fertility diet.
Herbs are the leaves of herbaceous plants. Examples include basil, coriander (cilantro), chives, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon and thyme. While spices are derived from roots, bark, flowers, fruits, berries and seeds. Examples include ginger (root), cinnamon (bark), cloves (flower bud), vanilla (undeveloped fruit), allspice berries (berries) and cumin (seeds).
Herbs and spices provide a concentrated source of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (plant nutrients). Many dried herbs and spices are also rich in polyphenols, a type of plant nutrient with strong antioxidant properties (read this article for more on antioxidants).
The process of drying herbs and spices increases the polyphenol concentration. So adding just a few teaspoons to flavour a recipe will contribute significantly to your polyphenol intake.
Spices will help you stick to healthy home cooking because they help you to get infinite combinations of tasty meals from basic whole foods. Think grilled meat, roast chicken, oven-baked fish, and stir-fried and roasted veggies.
Many cuisines worldwide make the most of herbs and spices for their medicinal benefits such as aiding digestion and supporting nutrient absorption. And we know now that many everyday spices like turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and ginger are highly concentrated antioxidant powerhouses. Many are also antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal.
Ways to use herbs and spices in your cooking
If you don’t already make the most of herbs and spices in your cooking it can feel daunting to get started. First, commit to using just two or three easy-to-find spices and when you’re comfortable with those slowly build up your repertoire. Here’re some ideas to try:
- Add a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger or turmeric to green smoothies.
- Add a pinch of cayenne to hot water and lemon for a spicy kick.
- Use vanilla extract to increase the perception of sweetness in foods, reducing the need for sugar. I use this technique for most of my sweet recipes!
- Cinnamon helps to stabilise blood sugar – use it to flavour sweet recipes, porridge oats or add it to hot chocolate.
- Tarragon goes well with chicken, add fresh or dried tarragon to your Sunday roast.
- Coriander and parsley are my go-to herbs for flavouring meals, they impart a lively, fresh taste as well as vitamins and minerals. Add them to salads, garnish soup or mix into curries. Coriander is especially good with Mexican and Indian recipes.
- Add finely chopped chives to a simple yoghurt-based salad dressing.
- Mix finely chopped fresh herbs with olive oil and use it to marinate fish.
- Make your own curry paste and make the most of warming, flavourful Indian spices like garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric.
- Mix spices with yoghurt and use it to marinate meat.
Get started with this spiced salmon traybake, a recipe I guarantee you’ll have on repeat!
Join the Recipe Hub for an abundance of recipes that make the most of herbs and spices, I use them in almost all my recipes, here’re just a few to tempt you:
- Cinnamon-chai granola
- Traditional shakshuka
- Sweet potato soup with chermoula-roasted chickpeas
- Baked cod with salsa verde
- Cajun pulled pork
- Dukkah-crusted cod
- Chickpea and aubergine seven-spice tray bake
- Spicy burrito bowl
- Cinnamon banana bread
More articles to read
Do you use herbs and spices in cooking? Which ones are your favourites? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below, or post in The Fertility Kitchen Community