Few things call to mind the harmony of the holidays like the scent of herbs and spices. Indeed, from cinnamon and clove to rosemary and myrrh, winter yields some of the most fragrant and appetizing aromas of the year. Bring these 5 additions into your world this season—and delight in the wonderful smells, tastes, and health advantages they offer.
Gingerbread men may be the unofficial mascot of the season, but the chief ingredient in this winter treat does far more than sweeten.
Used for centuries in China, ginger offers a bounty of benefits: It naturally supports healthy kidney function and energy, and it’s popular in natural remedies for nausea and digestive upset. What’s more, it organically encourages healthy circulation and pain relief. In fact, ginger is well-regarded in Chinese medicine for its facility to bolster stomach Qi and improve digestive health.*
Warm up this winter in more ways than one by including more of it in your diet. Ginger tea, soy and ginger marinades for meat, and shavings of fresh ginger in stir fries—all will stoke your inner hearth and help keep you warm through March. Or, whip together a first-rate dessert: Blend unsweetened cocoa powder with butter, flour, molasses, eggs, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and ground ginger for an elegant take on cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm: This is a comfort as much for the soul as it is for the tummy.
Cinnamon has long been a darling of the holiday season for a reason: It adds a kick to everything from pies to popovers and possesses a natural heat that’s, well, warmly welcomed during winter.
Both spicy and sweet, cinnamon is also one of the top healthy spices. Derived from the cinnamon vernun tree—and once so revered it served as a gift among dignitaries—it’s commonly used in Chinese health practices to help support stronger Qi. Here in the West, it’s cherished for the antioxidant properties found in its primary active ingredient, cinnamaldehyde. Additionally, cinnamon naturally supports immune health with its anti-inflammatory qualities and organically aids in healthy blood sugar levels (if already in a normal range).*
Sprinkle some on your morning oatmeal, add a dash of it to your coffee to help neutralize stomach acids, or combine it with honey and plain Greek yogurt. Another idea? Have cinnamon do double-duty by coating almonds with it. The excellent levels of fiber, protein, magnesium and omega-3s can naturally boost overall health.
On the savory side of winter herbs, oregano is an Italian fave—and a terrific seasoning for fancy comfort foods (oregano pesto being one of the more overlooked indulgences).
Native to the Mediterranean, this herb contains choice amounts of key nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, iron and manganese. It also naturally supports smoother digestion. Recognized as a “functional food,” the flavorsome herb—which means “delight of the mountains” in Greek—organically supports respiratory health as well.*
Keep yourself operating optimally this holiday season by enhancing a number of winter dishes with it. Try seasoning chicken breasts with oregano and fresh lime for a taste of sunnier climes, sprinkle it on top of pizza, soups and pasta, or create a first-rate Argentinian chimichurri sauce with parsley, red wine vinegar, cumin, garlic, and fresh or dried oregano. Feliz Navidad indeed.
Nothing says the holidays like a mug of eggnog laced with nutmeg—enjoyed, of course, before a roaring fire.
The good news? The spice in this signature holiday swill is also a blessing for your health. Originally from Indonesia, with a woody, robust flavor, nutmeg naturally supports sleep and a smoother complexion. Furthermore, nutmeg contains thiamin, folate, copper and macelignan—a botanical compound that’s been shown to have germ-fighting merits. When nutmeg is grounded down into a fine powder, it also retains its fiber content, rendering it a sage choice for naturally supporting digestive function.*
While a delicious addition to drinks (try a smidgen of nutmeg in your smoothie or the next latte your order), it’s also a brilliant way to enhance sweet potatoes, butternut squash soup, pumpkin pie, and Swiss chard. Or, go for a nutrient-rich carrot soufflé by pairing carrots, unsalted butter, onion, eggs, and flour with freshly grated nutmeg. The beta carotene in this comfy dish will organically encourage healthier skin—and what better way to shine at all those holiday parties?
Bram Stoker had something right by turning to garlic in his classic novel. But garlic accomplishes far more than warding off vampires: It can also help support immune health and help maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol already within normal range.*
Sharp and piquant, from a Chinese point of view this winter herb naturally supports recovery from “wind colds” because of its warming qualities. From a Western perspective, it’s equally valued for its potent immune enhancing qualities. Low in calories and rich in vitamins C and B, it can also organically encourage vitality so you can tick more things off that holiday to-do list.
Embrace winter vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli,and beets by topping them off with olive oil and garlic; use it to season meat, fish and potatoes, or roast garlic cloves and serve with a creamy goat cheese, olives and crostinis. Or, give garlic to your host in lieu of holiday wine: Infuse high end olive oil with chopped garlic and sundried tomatoes and present it in a pretty jar. After all, there’s no greater gift than health.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.