According to new research from Penn State University, eating a diet rich in herbs and spices reduces the body's negative response to high-fat meals. In the study, the group that consumed two tablespoons of herbs and spices within their meals - specifically rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika - had 30 percent lower levels of blood fats compared to those who ate the same meals without seasonings. Their blood levels of antioxidants were also 13 percent higher – a pretty powerful effect for a relatively small (and delicious) addition.
While I was thrilled to learn about this study, I wasn’t surprised. In my newest book, which was released in January, every meal is seasoned with herbs and spices instead of sugar and salt. In fact, I devoted an entire chapter to herbs and spices, which I call SASS: Slimming and Satiating Seasonings. I say this because in addition to their heart-healthy effects, other research shows that herbs and spices pack a pretty powerful weight loss punch. For example, they improve satiety, so you stay fuller longer; they rev up metabolism, which helps you burn more calories; and lastly, some exciting new research from the University of Florida found that people who consume more antioxidants weigh less than those who don't, even if they consume the same amount of calories.
Herbs and spices are antioxidant powerhouses: One teaspoon of cinnamon packs as much antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries, and a half teaspoon of dried oregano contains the antioxidant capacity of a half cup of sweet potatoes. They're also a feast for your senses, because they add flavor, aroma and color to each dish. Sprinkling them into your meals may just be the trick to getting the scale moving again, and fortunately, they're incredibly easy to take advantage of.
Here are 10 simple ways to add them to your diet:
Sprinkle spices into your morning cup of Joe, like cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves.
Fold fresh grated ginger into your yogurt.
Wrap garlic cloves in foil and grill until tender then spread a whole clove onto a slice of whole grain bread and top with slices of vine ripened tomato.
Add fresh mint leaves to your water, iced tea or fruit smoothie – they’re fantastic with mango.
Garnish a fruit salad with a dash of cardamom or citrus zest.
Roast or grill fruit with rosemary – it’s amazing with peaches and plums, which are in season now.
Garnish black or pinto beans with fresh cilantro.
Grind fresh peppercorn onto your salad.
Add fresh basil leaves to any sandwich or wrap.
Stir a little powdered chipotle into melted dark chocolate and drizzle over whole nuts to make spicy ‘bark.’
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.