However, new scientific findings are adding credibility to claims that herbs and spices fight disease. Indeed, their use in countries such as France, Spain, Greece and Italy is partly why the Mediterranean diet is thought of as the healthiest diet in the world.
Check out these six powerful herbs that you can add to your diet to improve your health today.
Traditionally used for loss of appetite, colds, flu, flatulence and indigestion, cinnamon is currently attracting scientific attention for its potential to help control blood glucose in pre-diabetes and diabetes.
The main active ingredient is thought to be the anti-inflammatory plant compound, cinnamaldehyde, together with antioxidant plant compounds called proanthocyanidins, also found in apples, grape skins and red wine.
Did You Know? In a recent study, people with pre-diabetes (overweight and high fasting blood sugar) who used lots of cinnamon in cooking had better working memory – the kind used to store short-term information like a shopping list – which can be impaired in pre-diabetes.
Another study found that adding cinnamon to food helped protect against insulin resistance (when the body makes but can’t use insulin), and stress on the brain caused by a diet high in fat and sugar.
Creamy pumpkin soup with an added walnut crunch. This dish is perfect for lunch or a light dinner, and is a healthy alternative to your regular cream soups. It’s also suitable for diabetics.
A hearty, Indian-influenced pie that incorporates tender, slow-cooked beef chunks, massaman curry and self-made roti (Indian flatbread).
Chillies contain a compound, capsaicin, responsible for both their fiery effect and for helping ease pain in arthritic joints and fibromyalgia. But the benefits appear to extend beyond creaky joints. Several studies have found that eating chillies regularly, like at least twice a week, can significantly decrease the risk of early death. Hillary Clinton allegedly eats a chilli a day to boost immunity.
Capsaicin mops up substance P, a messenger chemical that transmits pain signals to the brain. Current research suggests capsaicin may defend against autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Did You Know? Other than adding raw chillies to salads or soups, and use dried in curries and spicy dishes to harness their healing powers, capsaicin-based gels, creams and plasters may ease mild muscle and joint pain. Look out for the ingredient the next time you are at the pharmacy.
Whip up this delicious plate for stir-fry that’s packed with chilli for dinner – its flavoured by a fragrant marinade with lots of chilli and bean sprouts to provide crunch.
A whole steamed fish represents togetherness, making this flavourful dish great for family meals and part of feasts for festive occasions.
Best known for giving curries their yellow colour, this root is attracting massive scientific attention for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of its major active ingredient, curcumin.
The plant pigment curcumin helps balance blood sugar, and protects the liver, kidneys, heart and nervous system. It can also help protect against heart attacks and help to prevent blood clots (thrombosis). An article in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests it may help enhance cognition and delay, or prevent, nervous system problems, including Alzheimer’s.
Did You Know? Add turmeric powder or – if you can get hold of it – chopped or grated turmeric root to soups, curries, rice, meat and fish dishes, yoghurt and smoothies. Add a little fat (oil or butter) to aid absorption.
Take your salad to the next level with this recipe that features spices like turmeric, garam masala and pepper, plus healthy couscous and cauliflower in the mix.
Damian D’Silva, Executive Chef at Folklore combined Chinese, Malay and Indian, as well as, Eurasian flavours to create this Singapore Chicken Curry dish.
This humble aromatic herb, widely used in Mediterranean cuisine, is currently attracting the attention of international experts seeking to uncover the secrets of the remarkable longevity of 300 centenarians from the Italian fishing village of Acciaroli. The villagers, known for their liberal use of rosemary in cooking, not only routinely live to over 100 years old, but are astonishingly free of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
This comes as no surprise to Dr Mark Moss, whose own studies of rosemary essential oil have convinced him that it improves memory, especially long-term and so-called ‘prospective’ memory that we use to remind us to do things.
“Rosemary is packed with potentially bioactive ingredients, one of which, 1,8-cineole, seems to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, the brain’s main messenger chemical, which is key to memory,” Dr Moss observes.
Did You Know? Acetylcholine levels tend to decline with age, leading to those harmless, though irritating, senior moments – medically known as age-associated memory impairment. Meanwhile, in people with Alzheimer’s, levels of acetylcholine can fall by up to nine per cent.
Packed with healthy ingredients, this Minestrone soup recipe makes a nutritious one-pot meal. This one uses risoni but you can use pasta shells or macaroni.
Tender rosemary chicken added to sweet, caramalised onions, smooth Italian polenta and a crumble of feta cheese. A perfect meal for the entire family.
Traditionally, thyme is used to help infections, coughs, colds, acute and chronic bronchitis and catarrh. Recent research has concentrated on the anti-inflammatory properties of thyme.
Did You Know? Thymol, the plant chemical that gives thyme its distinctive aroma, and carvacrol, another plant chemical also found in oregano, may be responsible for thyme’s anti-inflammatory properties, according to recent studies.
Quinoa is still trending as one of the top superfoods, and this quinoa risotto dish is great for giving your body a boost of nutrients while helping your diet. The healthy dish is also diabetic-friendly.
Perfect for a barbecue, these fresh sardines get a lovely flavour from the thyme.
Traditionally prized for its antispasmodic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and calming properties, as well as its hormone-balancing effects, sage is called the Queen of Herbs. Medical herbalists swear by it for hot flushes, sweats and other menopausal symptoms.
A small Swiss study found that a daily dose of fresh sage leaves helped ease the severity and frequency of hot flushes by 50 per cent within four weeks.
How does it work? Research suggests that an antioxidant plant compound, rosmarinic acid, could be responsible for some of these benefits.
This festive pork loin, accompanied with a savoury cider jus, is so juicy that everyone will surely come back for seconds.
This wonderful Roast Turkey With Sage Stuffing recipe is easy and elegant for festive occasions like Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.