Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for overall wellness, but it can be challenging to know where to start or how to make significant changes.
If you are like many people, you may want to eat healthier but feel unsure about how to begin. Perhaps you have tried diets or healthy eating plans in the past, but they did not work for you, or you found the process overwhelming.
For some, it's simply a matter of finishing the food in the kitchen before making a change or even not wanting to change your diet but wishing it was more nutritious. Whatever the reason is, you are not alone!
The good news is that you can level up your meals with something you already have in your kitchen. This simple addition will add huge amounts of vital nutrients, and it will make your meal taste better, too!
So, what are these magical ingredients that can change our meals for the better?
Herbs and Spices
Adding herbs and spices to meals is a great way to enhance the flavor of your food while also providing numerous health benefits. Herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help to boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and even aid in weight loss.
Herbs and spices contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are micronutrients that provide our body with essential vitamins and minerals that we can't get from macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats). They can only be obtained through plant foods and are most heavily found in herbs and spices.
Common phytonutrients include carotenoids such as lutein, flavonoids, coumarins, indoles, isoflavones, lignans, organosulfures, and plant sterols.
One of the main benefits of using herbs and spices in your cooking is that they can help reduce the amount of salt and unhealthy fats you use without sacrificing flavor. For example, using garlic, onion, and ginger in place of salt can add depth and complexity to your dishes while also reducing your sodium intake.
Herbs and spices also contain very few calories; many are even considered "negative calorie" due to the fact that the effort it takes to digest them actually burns calories! Many herbs and spices also contain anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Some of the best anti-inflammatory herbs and spices include turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
Finally, herbs and spices can also aid in digestion and boost metabolism, which can help with weight loss. For example, adding cumin to your meals can help to improve digestion and reduce bloating, while cayenne pepper can help boost your metabolism and burn more calories.
What makes it an herb, what makes it a spice?
The difference between seasonings, and herbs and spices
Herbs and spices in their natural form are game-changing ingredients packed with nutrients, but be wary of pre-made seasoning packets.
Store-bought seasonings are quick and convenient ways to get a mix of spices for specific types of meals (a common example is taco seasoning). Buying a single bottle or packet of a spice mix is easier than buying all the spices that go into creating that flavor profile, but unfortunately, that convenience comes with a cost.
Store-bought seasoning mixes use preservatives and flavor enhancers to make their products more shelf-stable and to (in theory) make them taste better. Flavor enhancers are typically used to compensate for lower-quality ingredients by tricking our taste buds with chemically made versions of natural flavors.
Pre-made seasonings are often packed with salt; many mixes contain 14-20% of the daily recommended sodium intake.
Most contain maltodextrin, a starchy substance that quickly turns into glucose in our body, and binding agents such as cornmeal or starch.
While they are convenient, they’re just not as healthy as the real deal.
To add to the health impacts, ounce for ounce, they are usually more expensive than buying the spices and mixing them yourself.
Where to start?
The great thing about herbs and spices is that we typically have at least a few on hand from one recipe or another. Since herbs and spices benefit many parts of the body, it can be hard to know what to choose.
Here are a few common nutrition goals and focuses and some herbs that support them:
- Black pepper
- Other pepper spices (cayenne, chili, etc)
Nutritive (providing nutrients):
- Dandelion root
- Green tea
Blood sugar support:
- Bitter gourd
- Curry leaves
No matter where you start, adding herbs and spices to your meals will level up your nutrition and make your food more flavorful and satisfying without adding calories! Want more help? Mint Condition Fitness not only provides fitness expertise but nutrition support as well. Check out our 28-Day Kickstart program!
In this program, you will get:
- Full fitness and goals assessment
- Personalized fitness coaching to teach you the exact exercises you need to safely and effectively build lean muscle
- A simple meal plan to help you burn fat and balance hormones
- 1-on-1 success coaching to help guide you as you work to change your diet, exercise, and lifestyle
You can take charge of your health and wellness; you just need a program that can show you how to build the habits needed to reach your goals!
Click here to learn more and take back control of your health and fitness today!
Mint Condition Fitness empowers purpose-driven men and women to lose weight, get out of pain, and do more of the things that make life meaningful.