7 Ways to Use Spices in Your Diet this Summer

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SpicesSummer's here and despite my weekend forecast for SNOW (yes, you read that right), my herbs are popping. How about yours? Basil, thyme, cilantro, rosemary… for thousands of years people have been using spices to add flavor and color to dishes. But here's where old world flavor meets new science: spices are one of nature's most concentrated source of phytochemicals, which means they make a powerful addition to your plate that goes way beyond just good taste. Talk about an easy way to improve your diet without changing too much about what you eat. Plus, seasoning your food with spices adds more plants to your diet (a lean and green win) and can also help you cut back on added fat, salt and even sugar in your day. What's not to love?

I love these Easy Eco Friendly ideas for using up outdated spices from Gaylin Walli, and here's something fun and ecofriendly you might not know about your favorite spice: organic agriculture has been increasingly using well known spices like rosemary, mint and clove (in the form of their essential oils) as an environmentally friendly alternative against conventional pesticides against insects and pests.

Summer herb pots are fun for kids and an easy way to grow something yourself, but dried spices are also potent and healthy, can be economical, and are a great swap for winter if you have 8 months of snow like I do. While all spices (because they come from plants) have healthy compounds, here are some of the most powerful ones sure to make all that delicious summer produce from your farmers market or CSA taste even more delicious.

1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Did you know 1 teaspoon of cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries! To boot, cinnamon may help you regulate blood sugar and reduce your risk of diabetes. Swirl into cold muesli, give a hefty shake in your morning java fix, or give summer lunchbox sandwiches an unexpected flavor boost by adding a sprinkle of Ground Cinnamon to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
2. Ginger

Ginger

Pungent and spicy, ginger has long been a remedy for morning and motion sickness, for upset stomach and heartburn, and contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. For a fresh fruit pick-me-up, try a light sprinkling of Ground Ginger on summer peaches, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon. Or boost your brew by adding ½ tsp ground ginger to 1 quart of freshly made summer lemonade. Did you buy a fresh ginger root? Freeze the extra and just grate it directly from freezer to recipes.
3. Oregano

Oregano

Talk about a powerhouse: a scant ½ a teaspoon of oregano has as many antioxidants as 3 cups of spinach. Oregano also has strong antibacterial properties because of its volatile oils. Roast those farmer market tomatoes with olive oil and oregano and enjoy hot or cold. For a twist on the typical grilled cheese, prepare your whole grain bread with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato and ½ teaspoon Oregano Leaves.
4. Red Pepper

Red Pepper

Getting fiery heat from a compound called capsaicin, cayenne has been widely studied for its anti-inflammatory properties, its ability to reduce the risk of ulcers, and its pain reducing effects for headaches and arthritis. Sprinkle paprika or cayenne onto your favorite hummus and serve. Or mix up your own spiced salt by mixing 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons Paprika, ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin and a pinch of Ground Red Pepper. Sprinkle over grilled or roasted fish, poultry or tofu.
5. Rosemary

Rosemary

Related to mint and lavender, its signature scent not only calms you but also might provide powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Farmer's market potatoes and rosemary are a perfect summer pair. You can also toss 1/2 teaspoon crushed Rosemary Leaves and ½ tsp Garlic Salt to steamed summer green beans.
6. Thyme

Thyme

A super concentrated source of antioxidants, the volatile oils in thyme (such as thymol) also have strong antimicrobial properties. Eggs and thyme are a perfect pairing. Wake up your taste buds with Herbed Scrambled Eggs. Snip 1 teaspoon of fresh chives and thyme leaves into 2 eggs (preferably organic) before scrambling.
7. Yellow Curry

Yellow Curry

Curcumin, a component of turmeric that gives yellow curry powder that gorgeous gold color, is a potent cancer fighter and helps boost mental clarity and fight depression, Love this! Mix ½ teaspoon curry powder with 1 cup organic Greek nonfat yogurt, Use as a spread for turkey/veggie pita pockets. For summer movie night, lightly dust hot popcorn or snack mixes with Curry Powder for a new taste sensation.

Do you have a favorite recipe that spices things up? Or a tip for what you do with outdated spices? I would love to hear your ideas. In the meantime-I'd better bring my pots indoors I think.

Thanks to McCormick Spices for Health!