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Using Herbs and Spices



Boredom with the same food can be the number one killer of staying on a healthy track, so why not mix it up a little. There are a ton of herbs and spices out there besides garlic powder, salt and pepper. Fresh herbs can be grown in a window herb garden or bought fresh. Some stores even carry LIVING herbs, ones in pots that are growing and hydroponic varieties. There are also many markets that carry an array of spices that are whole or ground. I like the stores that have them in bulk (whole food and health food stores) because you can not only see them but smell them too. As a suggestion, make a plan to take a trip to one of these stores just to browse the spice section. Open the bulk containers, smell them and any that smells good to you, buy a scoop and then the adventure starts. Now go home and research a recipe that has that ingredient in it…You can also do the opposite and find a new recipe then go get new spices for it.  If you are just being creative and imaginative, remember that most spices only take a little bit.

I like to buy the spices whole if possible and then take them home and grind them as I need them. I have a micro plane and an old small electric coffee grinder I use. For my cinnamon sticks and whole nutmeg, I use the micro-plane to grind them, for all of my seed style spices I just put in my coffee grinder and grind into a powder. Some spices only come ground but most also come in their whole state. I put the whole spices in clear glass containers with a sealing lid to keep them fresh and store them in my spice cabinet because sunlight will shorten the shelf life. Half of the glass containers I have bought but the other half are small jars I have recycled from other things I have bought. Be sure to label them if you are unfamiliar with the spice. You can also create your own spice rubs and marinades. An easy way to do this is look at your favorite packaged mix and replicate the ingredients. By making your own you can avoid any unwanted additives or preservatives and control the sodium content in it.

Buying a new cookbook can be fun also. Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know a lot about Indian food, I had never been to an Indian restaurant, let alone know the first thing about ordering at one. I saw an Indian cookbook in the discount section at my favorite book store, and was feeling adventurous, so I bought it (besides it was only $3).  I started out with the recipes that had one or two familiar spices and tried it…Long story short– Now Indian food is one of my favorite ethnic foods to not only eat but to cook!  I urge you to do the same, who knows you might find a new type of food that you will love too.

There is always room in your meal for fresh herbs or spices. Herbs and spices add flavor and are generally low in fat, add very little calories, and no extra sodium. Not only do they add pizzazz to a meal, there are beneficial properties to herbs and spices. Herbs and spices have been used for centuries by many different cultures for there medicinal properties. Regular consumption (small quantities) of herbs and spices is associated with reduced risk of diseases and cancers: including cardiovascular disease, kidney stones,  Alzheimer disease, cataracts, some functional declines associated with getting older, and effects of bone loss.

NOTE: Before you add herbs/spices for medicinal purposes, check with your doctor about the adverse effects it might have on any medications you take. Some herbs/spices are beneficial in small quantities but can be toxic in large quantities.

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