The holiday season is the ideal time to break away from your diet and reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve done all year. One excellent way to add flavor to your holiday meals and desserts without adding calories, fat, and sugar, is with the use of spices! Aside from tasting amazing, the spices listed below also have a plethora of health benefits!
No surprise here, cinnamon is one of the most versatile and delicious spices on the planet! Whether you’re using it in your cookies, hot cocoa or coffee, you can eat easy knowing that you’re doing your body a favor. Cinnamon provides a surprisingly reasonable amount of fiber, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied. When shopping for cinnamon, opt for Ceylon over the common Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon is scientifically known as Cinnamomum verum, or “true cinnamon.” It’s the preferred variety for its sweeter, more delicate flavor.
Ginger’s warming sensation and potent flavor make it a must-have spice for the holiday season. It adds a wonderfully pungent zest to cookies, muffins, cupcakes and gingerbreads. Ginger has long been lauded for its ability to soothe tummy woes by combating gas, nausea and upset stomach. You won’t have to think twice about reaching for those delicious gingerbread cookies. If shopping stress is getting to you, sit back and relax with add a warm glass of ginger-spiced almond milk. Sweeten it with honey and a pinch of cinnamon for good measure!
Nutmeg is an excellent holiday spice that adds warmth and sweetness to eggnog, pumpkin pie and a variety of savory dishes. This beloved spice is known for its calming effects on the mind and body. Add a dash of nutmeg to your sweet potato casserole this Thanksgiving to help you get through a house-full of guests, a day’s worth of cooking and a mountain of dishes with more ease than ever before.
Cloves are recognized by their sweet, warm flavor and earthy smell. It’s a wonderful addition to curry dishes and meat, as well as pies and cookies. Cloves are rich in antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. This spice also contains eugenol oil, which acts as a natural anesthetic. It’s important to use cloves sparingly, because large quantities are not only potent for your dishes but can leave your mouth numb.
Not to be confused with the evergreen from the Southeastern United States, this star-shaped, anise-like spice is native to Vietnam and China. If Chinese star anise is not in your pantry, it’s time to pick some up before your big feasts. In traditional medicine, star anise seeds are chewed after a meal to aid digestion. This spice also contains significant amounts of shikimic acid, which is known for its immune-supporting benefits. While it’s commonly used to add spice to Vietnamese cuisine, star anise has a flavor similar to cloves and adds a powerful punch to cookies and other holiday sweets.
Spices are at the heart of every good (and healthy) chef’s best dishes. When the holiday season is over, keep up with your spice cabinet by learning more about new and interesting flavorings from our spice index. Experiment with a variety of healthy options to liven up your best plates!