June is National Cancer Survivor Month! When it comes to eating for cancer prevention and recovery, few things are as potent in healthful nutrients as herbs and spices. Herbs and spices contain a variety of antioxidants that specifically target and reduce inflammatory compounds, like the free radicals that can promote cancer growth. In addition to being part of a healthy, anti-cancer diet, herbs and spices are key to all healthy lifestyles, whether you are focused on blood sugar, immune function or just longevity. Plus herbs and spices taste delicious! A little bit goes a long way in making a ho-hum dish suddenly pop (and a little goes a super long way for nutrient intake too!). Here are our top 5 favorite herbs and spices and ideas for how to use them:
Cinnamon is our favorite because not only is it great for health, but it is soooo delicious! Cinnamon, specifically Ceylon cinnamon, has shown reduction in blood sugar as well as benefits for markers of heart health. It’s sweet and spicy taste is perfect for anything from meat rubs to muffins to yogurt parfaits.
Other Easy Uses: sprinkle onto yogurt, sprinkle over fresh or baked fruit, mix into your morning coffee.
Turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory effects. These effects include reduced arthritis pain, reduced depressive symptoms, and even reduction in markers of cognitive decline. For maximum nutrient absorption, toast your turmeric until fragrant and mix it with black pepper and a healthy fat. Turmeric is most famous in curries but it’s unique flavor can be used in a variety of other dishes!
Other Easy Uses: If turmeric feels a bit foreign, try just sprinkling a tiny bit into everyday dishes, like scrambled eggs or roasted potatoes. Make an easy veggie dip by mixing plain yogurt with curry powder, turmeric maple syrup or raw honey!
Cilantro is such a nutritional powerhouse that benefits so many bodily processes, we recommend getting a serving of this herb every single day! Cilantro aids our natural detoxification pathways so can aid immune function, digestion and absorption. Eat the leaves or the seeds!
Other Easy Uses: Throw cilantro into a basic salad or on top of pretty much anything, from eggs, to baked potatoes, to a side of beans!
Ginger’s unique properties help with preventing nausea and normalizing bowels. It’s also an antioxidant superpower and it’s slight spiciness can help boost immune function!
Other Easy Uses: grate a ginger root and throw bits into oatmeal, smoothies or creamy sauces.
Kind of a cheat here since harissa is actually a blend of several fantastic spices, but we love it for that combined nutrient effect and the flavor is out of this world! Harissa is typically a blend of chili pepper, garlic, coriander, cumin, citrus and sometimes paprika or caraway seeds. The spicy properties help move fluids along, which aids lymphatic and sinus drainage, while some of the warming spices add antioxidants. Typically harissa is combined with olive oil when cooking so the fat acts as a carrier to improve absorption of all of this delightful blend has to offer.
Other Easy Uses: Add harissa to everything! We aren’t kidding! On baked chicken or fish, sprinkle onto fresh or cooked tofu, mix into means with olive oil and cilantro, or just sprinkle on top of roasted vegetables (harissa green beans seem to be a crowd favorite).