Add these antioxidant-packed spices & herbs for health and healing to your daily meal planning routine

  • 2 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Did you know there are health benefits of a diet rich in herbs and spices and low in sodium that go beyond lowering blood pressure? Learn about the herbs and spices with the highest antioxidant content and some simple, practical tips for their use in cooking.

Herbs for health and healing

Adding herbs for health and healing to your daily meal planning routine is a great way to load up on antioxidants!

Most people are aware that a high sodium diet has an impact on blood pressure and fluid retention. In fact, too much sodium can be a serious issue in people with heart, liver or kidney disease.

So, does a healthy diet need to be bland and flavorless? No way! This is where healing herbs and spices come in. Not only can you add wonderful flavor to your foods while using less salt, but many herbs and spices with high antioxidant content may actually decrease cancer risk too! Herbs and spices are virtually risk-free when added to food and come with the potential promise of improved health.

For centuries, many cultures have been using spices and herbs for health and healing and to flavor food. Modern science is now beginning to show the benefits of herbs and spices with the majority of studies focusing on the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Scientists propose that herbs and spices may reduce cancer risk by altering the bacterial environment, changing cellular structure or blocking, slowing or stopping tumor growth.

More than 180 spice compounds have been explored for their health benefits. Here is a list of some of the more well-studied spices, including some practical tips for their use in cooking.

Herbs & spices with highest antioxidant content


Turmeric is one of the most extensively studied spices. More than 1,700 lab studies have been published on this spice. It gets its yellow color from curcurmin, a phytochemical being studied for its anti-cancer potential.

Tips for using turmeric:


Garlic, technically a vegetable, is often considered a spice because it is mainly used to flavor foods. Garlic is abundant in sulphur-containing compounds that are thought to be highly active in the body to protect against stomach and colorectal cancer. Evidence shows that garlic can lower cholesterol, may slow the development of hardening of the arteries and may lower blood pressure.

Tips for using garlic:

  • peel off a few outer layers of the garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and grill or slow roast for about 45 minutes
  • use extra minced garlic in recipes to further boost flavor
  • make a simple pasta sauce using sautéed garlic and basil in olive oil
  • Black pepper

    Black pepper, probably the most important and popular spice in the world, contains a substance called piperine that gives it its strong flavor. In cell studie, piperine acts as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Researchers have found that the combination of curcumin and piperine may work better as active agents in preventing cancer cell growth. This is one example of how scientists are looking at how spices may work together for our health.

    Tips for using black pepper:


    Allspice was named by the English, who thought the herb contained flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. It is a myth that allspice is a combination of spices, but rather it is derived from the dried, unripe berries of the Pimenta dioica tree. It contains at least five potential compounds that may contribute to health promotion.

    Tips for using allspice:


    Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the bark of an evergreen tree. It has been studied for its antioxidant properties and is being investigated for improving blood glucose control in diabetes.

    Tips for using cinnamon:

    Using spices and herbs for health and healing

    Proving the impact of herbs and spices on health is challenging. Medications can be studied as single compounds at a defined dose. Alternatively, food substances can vary in amount and type eaten, making it difficult to determine the impact of a single substance on health. The good news is that herbs and spices add flavor and variety, and can easily be added to dishes with the bonus of potential positive health benefits...minus the sodium. So, go ahead and spice up your foods for enjoyment and good health! It's a win-win.

    Looking for more ideas on using herbs and spices in cooking?

    Is your food always bland? You may be missing the trick with these spices and herbs!
    The Ultimate Infographic Guide to Spices

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    Updated: Apr 20, 2020

    Foods & Recipes->"Herbs, Spices, & Flavor" Nutrients->Antioxidants
    Apr 20, 2020

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