The festive season brings an array of delightful tastes and aromas, many of which originate from spices that have been cherished and utilized for centuries by different cultures. But beyond adding flavor to our favorite holiday dishes, many of these spices boast a plethora of health benefits.
Here are some of my favorites:
Cinnamon: Often sprinkled atop lattes or baked into your favorite baked goods, this spice is a holiday favorite. But did you know that cinnamon has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties? It's also known to reduce blood sugar levels, which is an awesome benefit. Tip: Swap sugar with a sprinkle of cinnamon in your morning coffee for a festive and healthier twist.
Nutmeg: This warm spice, often grated fresh, is a staple in many holiday desserts and beverages. Beyond its distinctive flavor, nutmeg can benefit digestion and even possess antibacterial properties to help fight off cavity-causing bacteria. Tip: A pinch in your eggnog or sprinkled on roasted vegetables can bring both flavor and health benefits to the table.
Ginger: Ginger doesn't just make for delightful baked goods; it's renowned for its medicinal properties. It's an effective remedy for nausea and boasts potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Tip: For a morning wellness boost, try ginger tea sweetened with a touch of honey.
Cloves: These aromatic flower buds are frequently used in sweet and savory holiday dishes. Cloves are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and have been known to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Tip: Add whole cloves to your holiday ham, or include them in your mulled cider for a flavorful, healthful infusion.
Star Anise: This star-shaped spice is visually appealing and packs a health punch. It's rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and is traditionally used to treat coughs and flu symptoms.
Tip: Star anise can be a delightful addition to homemade chai tea or poached fruits.
Allspice: Named because its flavor resembles a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, allspice is rich in minerals like manganese, iron, and copper. It's also believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Tip: Allspice is wonderful in stews, pies, and even some meat preparations. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly.
Turmeric: This golden-hued spice has gained global recognition for its health benefits. While it's not traditionally a Western holiday spice, its warm, earthy flavor can be a unique addition to holiday dishes. Curcumin, its active ingredient, is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Tip: Try adding a pinch to your hot cocoa or even in your holiday soups. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Fennel Seeds: While more of a behind-the-scenes spice, fennel seeds can alleviate bloating and gas—something many of us experience during indulgent holiday feasts. Its sweet licorice flavor can be a delightful end to a meal. Tip: Chew on a few seeds post-dinner, or brew a simple fennel tea.
The holiday season is more than indulgence; it's also an opportunity to embrace the health benefits of the spices that define this time of year. So, the next time you're whipping up a holiday meal or sipping on a festive drink, take a moment to savor the flavors and wellness these spices bring to your table.