We're all guilty of adding some herbs and spices to our dishes, to make them appear more 'Instagrammable'
However, there's another reason we should be enjoying them, that goes way beyond creating the perfect picture. They can assist with a wide range of health concerns, from helping you reach weight loss goals, to boosting your immunity.
Pippa Campbell, Nutrition and Weight Loss Coach and Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK's leading Nutritionist and Author of The Natural Health Bible for Women, fills us in on the 12 herbs and spices you should be including in your diet.
1 Cinnamon (by Pippa Campbell)
With the highest antioxidant value of any spice, cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels. Used to alleviate nausea, cinnamon also increases sensitivity to insulin, and aids in fat burning, providing manganese, iron and calcium. Its antimicrobial properties can help to extend the life of foods too. Incredibly healthy and nutritious, it's often hard to branch out from the most common uses of cinnamon: biscuits, muffins and desserts - other great way to incorporate it is in curries, or to sprinkle it on top of coffee.
2 Cayene pepper (by Dr. Marilyn Glenville)
Peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, and it's this compound which gives them their heat. It's believed that this helps fight weight gain and obesity by decreasing calorie intake and lowering blood fat levels. The capsaicin’s warmth helps with a process called thermogenesis, where your body converts fat into heat, thus burning more fat, which aids weight loss. This can boost your metabolism by up to five per cent, and increases fat burning by up to 16 per cent.
3 Black pepper (Dr. Glenville)
Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, which has been known to prevent the formulation of new fat cells. Combining black pepper with other spices, such as capsaicin, has been known to burn the same number of calories as a 20-minute walk. Black pepper is also an anti-inflammatory - it can help with problems like arthritis, painful joints in general and aids lower cholesterol and fighting infections.
4 Basil (Pippa Campbell)
Basil can be added to practically anything, from eggs to vegetables and soups. With anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, it helps to prevent osteoarthritis, and has been used to treat digestive disorders too. You can make your own pesto with basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts and nutritional yeast with a good oil. It can also be added to Bolognaise at the end of cooking.
5 Dandelion (Dr. Glenville)
For many of us, dandelions are an irritating garden weed, but traditionally, the roots and leaves of the plant are used as medicines for many issues, including bloating, digestive disorders, aching joints, fevers and skin disorders. Containing fibre, it can help you to feel full for longer and control your appetite. The leaves are rich in vitamins, including A, C, D, and B-complex, and have high levels of minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron and silicon.
6 Arrowroot (Pippa Campbell)
A starchy herb, arrowroot has an amazing thickening ability, like cornstarch, so can be added to soups, dips and similar. It can be used in place of flour for a roux, and will be the main baking ingredient in gluten-free teething biscuits for kids. Soothing and highly digestive, it's often used in treatment for conditions like IBS.
7 Turmeric (Dr. Glenville)
A yellow spice that's often used in curries, turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin which has had a lot of research looking into its anti-inflammatory effects. Research has not shown that curcumin actually aids with weight loss, but it is believed that it helps prevent the re-growth of fat after someone has lost weight.
8 Mint (Dr. Glenville)
Traditionally used to calm digestive troubles and alleviate nausea, mint will typically be enjoyed in a tea made from peppermint or spearmint leaves, and the volatile oils in both are often used in breath fresheners, toothpastes and chewing gum. When used externally, the oil or tea can be an effective mosquito repellent. The herb is easiest to consume as a drink, bit if you’re feeling adventurous, you could add it to meat dishes or desert recipes - for instance, finely chopped into homemade meatballs.
9 Ginger (Pippa Campbell)
An anti-inflammatory, ginger is believed to help with maintaining healthy joints. It also has the same thermogenic effects as capsaicin, due to its warming effects on the body. A simple way of incorporating ginger is to simmer a few slices of ginger root in boiling water makes ginger root tea – this stimulates and aids digestion.
10 Oregano (Pippa Campbell)
A common part of Italian and Greek cuisine, oregano has antiviral, antibacterial and antibiotic properties. Its oil and leaves are used medicinally in treatment of cough, fever, congestion, body ache and illness, and can be combined with basil, garlic, marjoram, thyme and rosemary to create a potent antiviral, anti bacterial and antimicrobial blend. It can also be sprinkled on any kind of food. A couple of teaspoons in a soup will be a great way of helping you recover from illness.
11 Thyme (Pippa Campbell)
A member of the mint family and containing thymol, a potent antioxidant, thyme can be boiled with water in homemade spray cleaners or added to bathwater to treat wounds. Thyme water can be swished around the mouth for gum infections or for the healings of wounds after teeth removal. Thyme tea can also be taken internally during illness to speed recovery and will be used in French and Italian cooking. It can be added to any baked dish at the beginning of cooking to slowly release its benefits.
12 Cardamom (Dr. Glenville)
Cardamom is believed to increase fat burning by improving your metabolism. Believed to be good for digestion, people will have cardamom tea after a meal, to reduce flatulence and general digestive discomfort.
Information courtesy of Dr Marilyn Glenville and Pippa Campbell