I love food. I love food a lot! I love to eat and I love to eat a lot of food. I love to sit down at a delicious meal and savor every bite of my beet and arugula salad with creamy feta cheese on top and then wash it down with a juicy buffalo burger (or bean burger, depending on my mood) on whole grain bread, all while the juice of the tomato on that sandwich runs down the side of my hand. At one point in my life, I did not recognize the importance of eating with pleasure by making my foods flavorful, varied, and full of delicious and healthy seasonings. The importance was the eating “formula.” At that time, my formula consisted on veggies, chicken, tuna, some fruit, and oatmeal. As you can see, apparently I succumbed to living a totally boring nutritional life. Even to this day, tuna from a can is less than appealing! It wasn’t until years after I started growing my own vegetables and herbs did I realize how tastes and foods can, quite literally, explode in your mouth. Now, I am not saying that you have to run out and buy a book on beginner’s gardening to be able to take pleasure in your food or to gain full appreciation of how adding color and taste and texture to your meal can enhance it greatly. It is more about education and experimentation with spices and different foods that can make a world of difference in your every day meal enjoyment.
If it is not pleasurable, it is not sustainable!
What do I mean by that? Regardless of how healthy your plate is or how many healthy snacks you add into your diet, if it does not bring you pleasure or satisfy your palate, it most likely will be kicked to the curb quicker than you can say “can I have more brussel sprouts…” Now, to be clear, I love brussel sprouts, but they have to have flavor and make me want to do a little dance of joy with each bite. And I will. But, I don’t love brussel sprouts just because they are healthy…I love them because they taste so darn good. So, maybe you are asking yourself right now…how can you eat healthy, lose weight, and still enjoy your food? Isn’t healthy eating supposed to be boring? I know I asked myself this over and over and over again as I experimented with food and my diet and how food affected me…and here is what I found in regards to weight loss while still having pleasurable eating experiences…
…It is so much about the experience! Yes, healthy eating is vital for overall health and maintenance of weight or even weight loss, but the missing link for so many is making your food pleasurable so that it increases good feelings, decreases stress, AND ALLOWS YOU TO BE MORE MINDFUL IN YOUR EATING. I have found that so many people attempting to be healthy “numb out” when they are eating healthy because 1. they think they HAVE to eat boring and 2. it is not pleasurable. When you are more mindful in the foods you eat, you can better appreciate the sweetness from that fresh Fuji apple and how the juice drips down your hand with each bite.
One of the other benefits from eating with flavor and spices is that there are many health benefits from spices themselves and are fantastic in internal healing for various ailments. When I have motion-sickness or inflammation or nausea, I know what spices to turn to in order to assist in decreasing my symptoms. In this blog today, I am paying respect to the benefits of cooking and eating with flavor and giving you my top 5 spices for pleasure and healing.
Ginger is perfect for helping to quiet nausea, speed food through the digestive tract, and protect against gastric ulcers. Small studies have also shown that ginger can help with pain, including menstrual cramps, muscle pain, migraines, osteoarthritis or other chronic inflammatory conditions.
It can cause heartburn and gas in large quantities and it may interact with some medications, so make sure that you check with your doctor first before ingesting large quantities.
How much: If your doctor approves it, it’s best to use ginger daily. It’s best if you can use fresh ginger instead of powdered.
Serving suggestions: Try a pinch of ginger in tea or dice it and add to a zesty Thai soup. It’s also great in baked goods, from gingerbread to gingersnaps. Try adding chunks of candied ginger to pear or apple muffins for an extra zing. And, if you get motion-sickness, try Gin-Gin’s natural ginger candy for relief.
Tumeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a strong antioxidant that’s been shown in studies to fend off cancer growth, amyloid plaque development, and more. It has also been shown to boost heart health due to it helping to regulate triglyceride and insulin levels. Tumeric is also amazing for inflammation…it is like a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory but without the nasty side effects. in a 2009 study, it was discovered that a daily dose of curcumin is just as effective as ibuprofen for osteoarthritis in the knee. Curcumin helps to regulate the immune system. It has positive effects on people with autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.
Like all herbs and spices, however, too much turmeric might not be a good thing. It has been shown that when ingested in large doses, it can inhibit blood clotting and may exacerbate gallbladder issues, so check with your doctor before using more than a typical culinary amount.
How much: Aim for a teaspoon of turmeric at least three times a week.
Serving suggestions: Add a big pinch to a pot of lentil soup or sprinkle some into a tea. You can buy teas commercially from companies like the Republic of Tea or Yogi, or make your own by chopping up an inch of fresh turmeric root and infusing in hot water for 15 minutes. I love sprinkling turmeric on my eggs in the morning. The heat also allows the antioxidants to better be released.
Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse. It helps to keep cells safe from oxidative stress and dangerous free radicals. Antioxidants help fight such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and Parkinson’s. Cinnamon is also fantastic in fighting cardiovascular problems. Cinnamon helps the hormone insulin work better, which reduces blood sugar levels. Diabetes will fear cinnamon’s presence! Cinnamon is also regarded as a warming expectorant, used to gently reduce congestion and phlegm in the lungs, and dry up runny noses.
How much: Aim for a quarter to half a teaspoon most days of the week. True cinnamon, often labeled “Ceylon cinnamon,” has higher levels of antioxidants, so seek it out if you can.
Serving suggestions: Sprinkle a little on fresh fruit, a steaming bowl of oatmeal, or a scoop of peanut butter, or add to fish, chicken, or lamb dishes, especially with cumin and chili powder. No time to cook? Sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning coffee or tea.
Basil, while often associated with giving Italian food a load of flavor, is traditionally used to treat asthma, stress, and diabetes. Basil has strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties, even against nasty bugs like Listeria and E. coli. It is especially great for anyone with arthritis or other inflammatory health problems. Basil is also a great source of beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A, as well as magnesium, iron, and calcium.
How much: Aim for a tablespoon of fresh basil or quarter to half a teaspoon of dried basil three times a week.
Serving suggestion: Basil epitomizes summer foods, such as cold tomato or pasta salads. But don’t stop there. Add it to pizza, pasta, or anything with tomatoes any time of year.
5. Cayanne or Chili Peppers
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in peppers, works as a great topical pain reliever for headaches, arthritis, and other chronic pain problems. Capsaicin inhibits the release of P-protein, which in turn interrupts the transmission of constant pain signals to the brain. If you don’t feel like smearing it on yourself, orally ingesting capsaicin has been linked to the release of endorphins and the regulation of blood sugar and has been shown to have anticancer benefits.
How much: As little as an eighth of a teaspoon can have positive health benefits.
Serving suggestions: There’s a whole world of chili peppers out there, from the mild poblano to the fiery habanero. It’s worth experimenting to find your favorite. Chili peppers work particularly well in salsas, soups, chicken dishes, and even in caramel or chocolate desserts. I LOVE chili chocolate!
Take action now! Find some recipes or make a list of how you can start to incorporate some of these spices into your daily healthy eating plan. I want you to comment below or email me through my website, Facebook, or Twitter and tell me all about your prep work and what you made as a result. Do you already cook and eat with a lot of spices and flavor? If so, I want to hear all about it! Live your life with passion and purpose…
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