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Herbs and Spices = Plant Wonders

June 15, 2011

The following is an archived post

 

You may have noticed that herbs and spices have recently received a lot of attention when it comes to talking about diet and nutrition.  More and more, we are encouraged to eat and prepare foods that are seasoned with herbs and spices.

 

That’s because herbs and spices provide a number of important benefits.  But first, how do we classify herbs and spices?  What are they exactly?

Herbs and spices are actually parts of plants.  The main differences between them are the type of plant an herb or spice comes from and the part of the plant that is used.  Most herbs come from the green parts of a plant such as the stem and leaves, while most spices come from the bark, root, seeds or flowers of a plant. Cinnamon, for example, is a spice made from the bark of the cinnamon tree.  Ginger spice is made from roots while nutmeg is made from seeds.  Also, spices tend to come from plants grown in warmer or tropical climates while herbal plants can be grown in many climates.  In addition, spices generally have more intense tastes and are therefore used in smaller amounts.Herbs and spices enhance food significantly.  They add taste and aroma (and color too!), bringing flavor and variety to dishes and meals.  Some herbs and spices work particularly well with certain foods and are important parts of specific ethnic cuisines, carrying a rich cultural history.

 

Seasoning food with herbs and spices is a great way to keep meals interesting and delicious without using salt, fats or other additives.  In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage using herbs and spices as a cooking substitute in an effort to reduce sodium consumption — a huge debate about which is taking place in this country and goes hand in hand with the consumption and use of herbs and spices.

 

Herbs and spices are also rich in disease-fighting chemicals called antioxidants.  They have amazing properties shown to protect against infection and inflammation.  While they have long held an important place in complementary and alternative medicine, scientists and researchers are increasingly studying the important role they play in overall health as well as disease prevention and treatment.  Recommendations to incorporate herbs and spices in meals for their own sake, rather than as substitutes, are becoming more and more mainstream. 

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