Health Boost: Chili peppers contain capsaicin, a powerful anti-inflammatory that has been proven to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis. External application of capsaicin is also thought to relieve pain in cases of psoriasis. Some progress still needs to be made on this condition as applying capsaicin to the skin is also accompanied by a burning sensation. Chili peppers help lower blood cholesterol and reduce blood clots, the main causes of heart attacks and strokes, so a little spice is good for your heart’s health. Chili peppers are high in vitamins A and C, the antioxidants that protect the body against infections and viruses.
Get Cooking: Chilies play an integral role in many recipes, especially certain ethnic dishes. In Mexican cooking, for example, chilies are pretty much a necessity. While known for their spicy heat, chilies can also add mild and subtle flavor to dishes, depending upon the variety chosen. With chilies, possibilities are only limited by your creativity.
Health Boost: Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Aim for one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day.
Get Cooking: Dip berries or bananas in low-fat sour cream, then in a mix of 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
Health Boost: Contains curcumin, which can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Try to have 500 to 800 milligrams a day, says Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Get Cooking: For an Indian flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric to water when cooking 1 cup rice.
Health Boost: Parsley is an excellent breath freshener, eliminating strong mouth odours such as garlic or onion. It cleanses and strengthens the kidney and can even help break up kidney stones. Helps with bladder or urinary tract infections. Parsley aids digestion and promotes a faster elimination of waste materials from the body. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing joint pain and stiffness. It boosts the immune system and protects against colds and infections. Parsley can help with water retention, bloating, indigestion and flatulence. It is helpful in pregnancy and fertility. The calcium and fluorine that is present in parsley can strengthen bones and teeth.
Get Cooking: Sprinkle raw chopped parsley over your favourite salad. Add chopped parsley to salad dressings such as vinaigrette, to mayonnaise, to an omelette before cooking,rice dishes, stocks and gravies, to clear or creamy soups. Add to mashed potato and homemade meatballs or beef burgers. Add to all homemade dishes such as spaghetti bolognaise, shepherds pie etc. Stuff the inside of fish, chicken or other poultry with parsley before roasting or grilling. Sprinkle over seafood and use when cooking mussels. Mix some chopped parsley with butter or olive oil and spread on toasted crusty bread. Add to homemade sauces like pesto and herby sauces.
Health Boost: A USDA study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.
Get Cooking: To spice up tomato soup, add 3/4 teaspoon oregano to 1 can; add 1/2 teaspoon to 2 cups pasta or pizza sauce. Substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano for 2 teaspoons fresh.
Health Boost: Destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells, says Karen Collins, RD, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. “Studies suggest that one or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits.”
Get Cooking: “Let garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes after chopping and before cooking so the active form of the protective phytochemicals develops,” says Collins. Saute fresh garlic over low heat and mix with pasta, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese.
Health Boost: Thyme is packed with minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Its leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.
The herb is also a rich source of many important vitamins such as B-complex vitamins, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin C and folic acid.
Get Cooking: The fresh or dried leaves of thyme as well as the flowering tops are widely used to flavor soups, stews, baked or sauteed vegetables, casseroles, and custards. Thyme provides a warm tangy flavor, somewhat like camphor, and can retain its flavor in slowly cooked dishes. Thyme is also used in marinades (especially for olives), and in stuffings. The leaves can also be used in potpourris and moth-repellent sachets. The essential oil of thyme can be used not only to flavor foods, but is also added to soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, perfumes, and antiseptic ointments. The oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve pain and elevate mood. In addition, it may have a calming effect in stress-related conditions. Thyme baths have been used to help relieve aches and joint pains.