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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
13 Aug

Top 10 Favorite Herbs and Spices

This article was originally published last year following the release of the Primal Blueprint Publishing book Rich Food, Poor Food. I’m reprinting it here today to coincide with a very special offer. As many of you may know, it’s my life mission to help 10 million (or more!) people take control of their health for good. As a small effort to that end, I’ve teamed up with Buck Books over the last few weeks to give select Primal Blueprint Publishing books away for under a buck. The response has been absolutely incredible. These one day sales have helped get life-changing information to tens of thousands of people that desperately need it. So today, I’m doing it again. Through midnight tonight you can get Rich Food, Poor Food on Kindle for just 99 cents. It’s the ultimate grocery purchasing guide, with detailed analysis and recommendations for all food groups. So have a look at Buck Books, and grab your Kindle copy before time runs out. Enjoy!

SpicesFollowing is an excerpt from the Caltons’ popular new book, Rich Food, Poor Food. I’ve chosen their section on herbs and spices because I learned more details about how to choose the best herbs and spices, and what benefits they offer, from reading their material. If you notice on my Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid, herbs, spices and extracts occupy a nice little triangle at the top. You’re not consuming mass quantities of them as a big calorie source, but they make an important contribution to a healthy diet nevertheless. Besides adding flavor and protecting against microbes, herbs, spices, and extracts provide outstanding levels of antioxidants – some of the highest values found in any food.

Yep, I’m a big fan of herbs, spices, and extracts…and after reading Rich Food, Poor Food and having follow up discussions with the Caltons, I’ve tossed most of the stuff in my cupboard! Why? Because most of the jars found in my own home were not organic, and/or have been in there longer than a year. According to the Caltons, most conventional spices you find in the grocery store have been irradiated during their processing. This compromises their nutritional value and introduces health risks, which are detailed in the following excerpt.

Sorry, herbs and spices do not get better with age (maybe you’re confusing them with the Primal Blueprint indulgence of red wine?); in fact, they lose their potency and become bottled up free radicals when they linger too long on your shelves. For kicks, I asked several folks in the office to go home, take a look at their spice rack or cupboard, and guesstimate how long the stuff has been in there. One realized that her spinning tabletop rack was a holiday gift from seven or eight years ago! Here’s more on the subject from Rich Food, Poor Food, including a nice promo for their gold medalist (and one of my favorites) in the spice category: turmeric.

Rich Food, Poor Food – Excerpt from Herbs and Spices Section

Most grocery store spices are irradiated. Irradiation is the process of exposing food to radiation in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. While irradiation works to kill bacteria, it also disrupts the structure of everything it passes through. Specifically, irradiation breaks up a food’s DNA, vitamins, minerals, and proteins and creates “free radicals” (atoms, molecules, or ions that contain unpaired electrons and crash into each other, multiplying exponentially), which contribute to many degenerative diseases, including heart disease, dementia, cancer, and cataracts.

Additionally, irradiation destroys the essential micronutrients that can help you reach micronutrient sufficiency. Your spice rack has so much to offer, that is, when you buy the Rich Food option, which is always the non-irradiated organic spice – our top pick. Here’s a rundown on the benefits of some of our favorite spices:

Dill

Dill: Helps your Digestion. A teaspoon a day can reduce 80 percent of bloating in only three days. Its antibacterial oils not only kill any possible stomach bugs but also help in the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins.

Uses:  Feathery texture is sharp-tasting. Great on fish, in chicken and potato salads. Used in pickling.

Tarragon

Tarragon: For Heart Health. One teaspoon daily lowered LDL cholesterol more than 40 percent while increasing good cholesterol nearly 30 percent. Tarragon contains a chemical called rutin, which boosts circulation and reduces plaque in the arteries.

Uses:  Flavor of anise, licorice, mint, hay, and pine. Try it in Bernaise sauce.

Oregano

Oregano: Bacteria Be Gone. Due to the high levels of antibacterial compounds and antioxidants, oregano is just as effective at killing E.Coli and staph bacteria as penicillin.

Uses:  Tastes Robust. Best in tomato dishes, usually of Mediterranean or Mexican origin.

 

Bay Leaf

Bay Leaf: Natural Pain Reliever. Eliminates headaches and migraines. Bay leaf is rich in eugenol, a natural anesthetic that alleviates pain.

Uses:  Tastes woody. Perfect in soups, sauces, stews, and pot roasts.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary: The Brain Booster and Fatigue Fighter. With just one sniff, the phytochemicals found in rosemary can rev up your mind by increasing production of beta waves. Carnosol, a nutrient unique to this herb, fights fatigue by flushing out energy-sapping toxins from the body.

Uses:  Smell rosemary sprigs to increase alertness in only five minutes. Intense pine flavor. Great on grilled meats; adds an interesting boost to chocolate desserts.

Cayenne

Cayenne: Appetite Suppressant and Metabolism Booster. Capsaicin, found in cayenne, has thermogentic properties that increase your blood flow and metabolism. Individuals who only use cayenne infrequently also find it reduces hunger.

Uses:  Sweet heat. Works well with meats and cheeses.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon: Controls Glucose Levels. Cinnamon contains antioxidants called polyphenols that boost levels of three key proteins responsible for insulin signaling, glucose transport, and inflammatory response. Sprinkle one half teaspoon on your food to slow carbohydrate absorption by 29 percent.

Uses: Sweet and Savory. This spice is found in almost all world cuisine. From stews to pies this spice doesn’t discriminate.

Cardamom

Cardamom: Treats Indigestion. Chew one teaspoon of these seeds to soothe a sour belly. The aroma and therapeutic properties of cardamom are due to the volatile oil in its seed, which contains cineol, terpinene, limonene, sabinene, and terpineol.

Uses:  Pungent and sweet. This fragrant spice is used in rich curries and milk-based preparations, as well as in spice cakes and desserts.

Sage

Sage: Memory Minder. Both the phytonutrients and volatile oils in sage maintain levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports memory.

Uses:  Piney with eucalyptus notes. Lovely addition to stuffing and pork dishes.

 

And our favorite Rich Food spice is . . . Turmeric

Turmeric

This mildly woody spice is a key ingredient in many Indian, Persian, and Thai dishes. This “poor man’s” saffron is rich in benefits. The active ingredient, curcumin, is so powerful that it is commonly made into expensive nutraceutical capsules. According to Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, “Curcumin is a complete well-being tonic – it benefits every organ in the body… It shows promise of fighting nearly every disease.” Dr. Goel suggests that curcumin aids in the prevention of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and depression.

Why not just cook up a cure in your kitchen tonight?

Curcumin Controls Blood Sugar: It switches on the liver genes that keep glucose levels in check. It improves the pancreas’s ability to make insulin and helps slow down the metabolism of carbohydrates after meals.

Curcumin Fights Cancer: It inhibits the genetic switches that allow for cancerous cell growth to occur.

Curcumin Speeds Up Metabolism: USDA research shows that is enhances cellular energy to speed metabolism.

Curcumin Clears Plaque: It removes amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain that can cause Alzheimer’s.

Making Cents

Let’s face it, organic spice jars are small and pricey, and it can take along time to use up some of these specialty ingredients. Your best bet is to buy your organic spices in the bulk section of your local health food or specialty spice store, where you can buy smaller amounts of the spices you need right away. This guarantees that your spices are fresh, loaded with flavor, and saves you money when a recipe only calls for a pinch. Buy your own glass jars online or wash out old spice jars and transfer contents from store baggies into convenient glass jars. Store them in a cool, dark place to prevent oxidative damage from light and oxygen.

Read an extended excerpt below, and check out the Buck Books offer to get a Kindle copy of this book for just 99 cents here.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I love cardamom. Try adding it to any dish using cinnamon. I put it in apple pie and Oh My! is it yummy! People say to me “Oh your apple pie is so cinnomony”, but it isn’t extra cinnamon, it is the cardamom. They go really well together.

    Also, as others have suggested, a mortar and pestle are great with spices. You can buy the spices whole and grind them up yourself (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, etc.). It is easy, and the smell is so wonderful, it is not a hardship to do this. You can also use a suribachi, which is a bowl with grooves carved in it. You use a pestle with it and grind the spices against the grooves. I think my suribachi is easier to use and does a better job than a mortar and pestle (which I also use for really small amounts because the suribachi is harder to clean).

    Geri wrote on February 21st, 2013
  2. Okay I live in a foreign East Asian country and can’t fund turmeric anywhere. Could anyone in the know please recommend a good brand or supplement I could order at iherb.com or some other place with international shipping? I don’t know what would keep in shipping or maintain it’s healthful properties in supplement form or what, and I really need that turmeric, so any help would be appreciated!

    Julius wrote on February 21st, 2013
  3. I heard about DILL and DIGESTION once before, but I always listen to you Mark, so I am definitely going to purchase some tomorrow! I suffer from bloating and stomach problems so I will try ANYTHING to make sure my stomach stays flat as opposed to looking like a 6 month pregnant woman.

    Thanks for the tip, I really appreciate it! :)

    GiGi wrote on February 21st, 2013
  4. It’s not really an herb or a spice — but I use green pepper as a spice. I buy 6-8 of them, cut and clean them, then puree the hell out of them into a complete mash. Spread them in a thin film on a cookie sheet that fits into my freezer, freeze, and then break up the ‘plate’ into ‘chips.’ The chips get jarred and kept in the freezer, and when I make scrambled eggs, sauce, burger, whatever — a chip or two into the pot – and ‘fresh’ green pepper without the risk of any rotting in the veg drawer! (I do it with onion too. As a singleton, I don’t use them up quickly enough to avoid them rotting…)

    Elenor wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  5. I put a bit of tumeric in my daily juice. That and ginger with a bunch of veggies. It’s great!

    Shereen wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  6. I have a question, I dont like to cook and try to do everything as quick and simple as possible so I know very little about spices. I get that the irradiating is bad, but how are the organic spices treated to make sure you arent getting whatever the irradiating is killing?

    Heather wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  7. I love cayenne!

    It’s so easy and versatile to use. I use it on practically all my grilled meats.

    I’m not a BIG spice person, but a little sprinkle here and here is just enough.

    I also love the fact that it has thermogenic properties. A great addition to anyone looking to boost their metabolism!

    Sereyvorn - Build The Body wrote on February 23rd, 2013
  8. Is the reference above only to real cinnamon, or also to cassia, the stuff that is usually sold in the U.S. as cinnamon? Real cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum) is grown only in Ceylon, so far as I can tell, and looks like what is pictured (many thinner layers). Casia (Cinnamomum cassia, also called Chinese cinnamon) is usually one thick curled layer. It’s related to Ceylon cinnamon, but has a more bitter taste, and contains a toxic compound called coumarin. My understanding is that it’s illegal to call cassia “cinnamon” in parts of Europe.

    Russ wrote on February 23rd, 2013
    • It’s my understanding that “true” cinnamon, or Ceylon cinnamon, is the one to use if treating medical problems. (Wikipedia has a good article on this.) My family prefers Saigon cinnamon, which I think has the best flavor. Whether this would work equally well or not, I have no idea, but we don’t treat anything other than our taste buds with it.

      Shary wrote on August 13th, 2014
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  10. Great post! I bookmarked your site so I can have a look around when I have more time :)

    Jessica wrote on June 5th, 2013
  11. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Does this mean that the non-organic store bought turmeric I have been shovelling into me is actually bad for me?

    David wrote on September 17th, 2013
  12. ha crap

    josh wrote on May 21st, 2014
  13. Wow, there are some herbs I don’t even know, like Tarragon, Sage and Turmeric. Really nice list and great information about those herbs. I often use rosemary and oregano but I’m sure I’ll try out the other ones:)

    Alessandro wrote on August 13th, 2014
  14. I grabbed this one!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 13th, 2014
  15. “Antibacterial properties” for Dill & Oregano – isn’t that counter to the primal way of fostering the most hospitable climate for our best gut bugs? Spent the last few weeks dosing them with more happy gut flora (yogurt, supplement) and feeding them resistant starch. Seems like a shame to eat these herbs which claim to kill them all off! Am I missing something?

    Primal in Houston wrote on August 13th, 2014
    • Dill and oregano are toxic to cocci like staph. Dill actually has a symbiotic relationship with some beneficial species of lactobacillus.

      Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 13th, 2014
  16. Love to see all the benefits of my favorite herbs and spices! Turmeric is a must for me if I feel a cold coming on and also for recovery when my running miles increase.

    Michele wrote on August 13th, 2014
  17. Favorite Breakfast: Sweet potato roasted in the oven. slice open and load with butter and tumeric, place fried eggs in the middle. I sometimes add sauteed greens.

    Elliot wrote on August 13th, 2014
  18. I was going to ask… What about garlic??!! Then I realized it’s really not an herb or a spice.

    BodyweightFan wrote on August 13th, 2014
  19. Cayenne and cinnamon on a daily basis for me!

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on August 13th, 2014
    • Me too! I add them both to my morning coffee grinds. The cinnamon seems to sweeten the brew

      Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 13th, 2014
  20. Thyme deserves an honorable mention. The active compounds are antioxidants and it is antibacterial against staph, salmonella, E coli, and the common parasitic nematodes. It grows like a weed and is a perfect complement to chicken, shellfish and lamb. It is great in cream based soups as well as bone stocks. Eggs too!

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on August 13th, 2014

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