7 Seasonings for Heart Health
The more you know about your health, the more power you have to stay healthy. While we know that eating a healthy, balanced diet (i.e. DASH Diet or Mediterranean Diet) is a great way to lower our risk of heart disease, we often associate “healthy meals” with “bland” or “tasteless” meals. This may be because most heart healthy diets restrict salt intake. Luckily, there are many delicious herbs and spices that can be used to flavor foods while being beneficial for your heart. Here are some herbs and spices that will give your heart an extra boost and make your meals far from boring:
1. Turmeric: Packed with vitamin C, zinc, iron and potassium, this yellow spice is part of the ginger family. It contains an incredible antioxidant called curcumin that helps reduce inflammation. Inflammation can play a large role in worsening many serious health conditions related to the heart (i.e. heart attacks, strokes), therefore, reducing inflammation in any way possible is a big plus! Turmeric’s flavor resembles a combination of ginger and pepper.
Cooking ideas: Sprinkle on veggies before roasting. Add to grilled chicken or cooked rice. Incorporate it into a homemade salad dressing.
2. Ginger: Interesting fact: ginger is a rhizome, not a root! It can be eaten raw or it can be ground into a spice. Ginger has been shown to reduce the risk for high blood pressure. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Furthermore, it’s known to help ease stomach aches. Ginger has a warm and spicy taste.
Cooking ideas: Add to soup, stir-fry, sweet desserts or Asian-style dishes. Use it to season grilled chicken or fish. Fresh ginger is great in hot tea.
3. Cardamom: Native to Southern India, cardamom is one of the oldest spices in the world. It is high in magnesium and zinc, may help soothe an upset stomach and has anti-inflammatory properties. This marvelous spice can even have an impact on lowering blood pressure. Cardamom has complex flavors which are citrusy, minty, spicy and herbal.
Cooking ideas: Best in sweet or savory dishes such as stews, sweet rolls and breads.
4. Cinnamon: Did you know cinnamon sticks are also called “quills?" This delightful spice has shown that it can help reduce levels of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, a perilous form of fat. On top of that it has even been shown to lower blood sugar levels. These benefits all connect to reducing risks of heart attacks and strokes. Cinnamon has a sweet-spicy flavor.
Cooking ideas: Great in baked desserts such as pies or crisps. Sprinkle onto oatmeal or roasted sweet potatoes. It can also be mixed into a dry rub for lamb or pork.
5. Garlic: Part of the lily family, garlic is also a cousin of leeks, chives, onions and shallots. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Garlic has a hot, spicy flavor that softens and sweetens when cooked. It also comes in a powder form and can add instant flavor to whatever food you’re preparing.
Cooking ideas: Awesome on grilled meats, shrimp, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You can also use garlic to make salad dressings, marinades or sauces.
6. Rosemary: Latin for “dew of the sea,” rosemary is a member of the mint family and native to the Mediterranean region. It is rich in antioxidants that may extend to the reduction of total cholesterol levels in the blood, liver, heart and fatty tissue. Rosemary is known to boost brain activity as well. This herb has a nice lemon and pine-like flavor.
Cooking ideas: Add into a poultry stuffing. Sprinkle onto roasted or mashed potatoes, cooked cauliflower and fish dishes.
7. Cocoa: Amazingly, it takes about three to five years for a cocoa tree to produce its first seed pods. This spice has antioxidants known as flavonoids that improve heart health by helping to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Cocoa has a robust chocolate taste but is also sharp and bitter.
Cooking ideas: Ideal in baked goods. Add it to coffee. Sprinkle on fruit, cereal or yogurt. Make a delicious hot cocoa by adding it to hot milk!
Learn more about heart health and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Kristin Repella, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
12. Vita Cost