Many herbs and spices for cooking deliver health and wellness benefits as well as flavor. These can be useful all year round. Some of them, however, are particularly useful in fall and winter, when temperatures drop. With that in mind, here is a quick round-up of the five best herbs and spices for the colder months.
If you thought chilies were just for Tex-Mex barbecues in summer, then think again. They’re used in many different cuisines. In fact, they’re crucial for many authentic Thai recipes. The most obvious reason to eat chilies in the colder months is the fact that they generate heat in the body. Their benefits, however, do not end there.
Chilies in general are full of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Red chilies also tend to be rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene. All together, that means chilies are great for boosting your immune system. That’s particularly useful in the colder months as it helps protect against seasonal blues.
Turmeric is another warming spice. It’s especially popular in Indian cuisine. In fact, turmeric is what gives Indian curries they’re typically yellow coloring along with much of their flavor.
The spice has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s mainly valued for its anti-inflammatory properties. These can be a huge benefit to people with certain chronic medical conditions, especially rheumatoid arthritis.
For the colder months, however, the main benefit of turmeric is its antioxidant qualities. These help the body to keep itself in good condition even when it’s under attack from the cold-weather nasties.
Black pepper is a natural partner for turmeric not just because of the taste but because black pepper is known to enhance the effect of turmeric. In fact, if you buy turmeric supplements, they often include black pepper for this reason.
This spice is, however, very beneficial on its own. Like turmeric, it’s high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a source of manganese. This mineral is closely associated with health and, in particular, with healing, especially wound healing.
Like the other cold-weather spices, black pepper also has a heating effect when consumed. This may be a bit too much in the warmer months but can be very pleasant in the colder ones. In fact, pepper can be a very simple way to liven up basic winter dishes.
In fiction, garlic is valued for its ability to ward off vampires. In real life, garlic is valued for its ability to ward off all kinds of minor nasties. Garlic really is an all-around booster for your immune system, and as a spice for cooking, adds delicious, rich flavor. Not only is it rich in vitamins, but it’s also rich in minerals and is known to be a source of sulfur compounds. That’s a large part of what gives the herb its characteristic smell.
Sulfur may not sound like it’s great for the body. In actual fact, however, it’s vital for several bodily processes. It plays a key role in keeping your skin healthy. This is particularly important in harsh winter weather.
Garlic is also known to be antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant. That’s a whole lot of protection against whatever cold-weather bugs wind up going your way.
From a health perspective, cinnamon is packed full of antioxidants and has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Its anti-inflammatory properties are a large part of what makes it so good to drink if you have a sore throat.
Cinnamon is a classic cold-weather spice for recipes, and for many good reasons. Probably the most obvious one is that it’s rich, warm, and comforting. It’s mainly used for sweet foods but can be used for savory ones.
Bonus pick – pumpkin seeds
Technically, seeds are different from spices. They are, however, the base material for a lot of spices for cooking. What’s more, pumpkin is arguably, the classic fall flavor. Come Halloween, everybody makes pumpkin lanterns and that means there are plenty of pumpkin seeds to be used up. Many people also use pumpkin throughout the season, creating even more seeds.
If you’re lucky enough to have pumpkin seeds, make the most of them. They really are one of the most nutrition-packed foods around as well as very tasty. Like most seeds, they’re a great source of protein and they’re also packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In particular, they’re a good source of magnesium. One of the functions of magnesium is to help with sleep regulation. This is important all year round. It is, however, often particularly important as nights get longer. This can really throw off the body’s natural rhythms, hence the fact that so many people often find it so hard to get out of bed in the morning.