Updated: Jan 8, 2021
Why have only mouth-watering flavorful food, when you can have super health benefits to go along with it?
Using pure organic spices to season your food does wonders for your palate and your body! Use them for all they offer, and eat your way back to health!
"The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison" - Ann Wigmore
For all you fellow foodies out there, I have decided to put together a list of what I consider to be the most essential spices and herbs every beginner cook should have on hand in their kitchen! For a long time, though it has luckily since changed, cooking "healthy" meals had a bad wrap for being bland, complicated or unsatisfying, leaving many turned off of making necessary healthy dietary changes. This could not be further from the truth! Putting together any meal in general, is all about the FLAVOR! You can make anything in the world taste amazing by the spices and herbs you use to season them. The result is not only simple dishes that tantalize your taste buds, but that you also reap a host of health benefits from making you look and feel fabulous!
Buying pre-packaged or pre-seasoned food contains synthetic flavors such as MSG, white refined sugar and Corn syrup, which are not only unhealthy but neuro-toxic chemicals that destroy our brains and bodies. Seasoning your meals yourself with real herbs and spices is crucial for having a health diet and body! All spices should always be organic, and I personally only use organic fresh and dried ones to obtain maximal flavor and health benefits from what all of these healing plants, barks and roots have to offer!
Now, of course the list of spices that can be used is endless, and as you play around you will discover which flavors you prefer and build up your spice rack from there. My kitchen definitely consists of more than what will be mentioned here but these are what I deem to be the base spices of what can truly make all dishes, no matter how simple, taste delicious!
So, what are the top 8 spices you must have in your kitchen?
Up first is the famous SALT and PEPPER! Now, they may be the most popular and universally used spices to season food, but the most important thing to note is getting a QUALITY salt and pepper. When it comes to SALT, using a raw rock salt rich in electrolytes and minerals is essential for health purposes. The wrong kind of salt such as processed white table salt, is stripped of its nutritional value, dehydrates you cellularly and is the reason behind salt's bad reputation of being something that should be omitted from your diet completely or barely consumed.
The RIGHT kind of salt allows for water to enter our cells maintaining fluid balance, and can contain up to 85 essential minerals needed for our bodies to function properly; digestive, muscle and nervous systems for example. My personal favorites are Celtic Sea Salt and Himalayan rock salt. They are both rich in all the good stuff; sodium, magnesium, calcium, iodine, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, and the list goes on.
PEPPER also has its own list of excellent health benefits aside from the considerable flavor and slight spicy kick it gives to our foods. Rich in the minerals just listed above, as well as the Vitamin B's, E and K, it's main compound Piperine, acts as an antioxidant; repairing oxidative stress from free radical damage. It is also good for detoxifying the liver, digestive health (by enhancing the bioavailability of other nutrients), and is great for your skin and nails. The list goes on here too, but trying to keep this short and sweet (as much as possible!) It's a no brainer as to why worldwide everyone is adding a little "pep" in their step, well in their kitchen anyway!
Moving onto CINNAMON. This warm, woody, aromatic and slightly sweet bark spice, is most commonly used for desserts and flavoring baked goods, but I also use it to add to my homemade teas, smoothies, sprinkle over fruits (apples and bananas are the best), and to pair with certain savory dishes to compliment already existing flavors. Rich in minerals as well as vitamin B3, B6, E and dietary fiber, this spice is excellent at helping our bodies stabilize and maintain blood sugar levels. Acting also as a great digestive aid and antioxidant, it supports our immune system to fight off pathogens in the body. It's a really versatile and beneficial addition to your spice repertoire!
TURMERIC is a must! If only for its powerfully healing properties alone. But luckily it has many versatile uses in the kitchen as well. Used to season anything from soups, rice dishes, stews, curries and sauces, to teas, fermented beverages and even desserts! (I have this awesome cookie recipe that uses ginger powder and turmeric!)
To address the health aspect, everyone must have this in their house! It's fiber content combined with all previously listed minerals and abundance of the water soluble vitamins B (primarily B6) and C, make it just a powerhouse for our bodies. Hands down one of the best anti-inflammatory foods nature could provide. Combined with black pepper and a healthy fat like coconut oil, its bioavailability is greatly enhanced and you have yourself a perfect remedy for healing inflammatory based illnesses such as arthritis, leaky gut/coeliac, heart disease, and autoimmune ones like diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid etc. Turmeric has anti-cancerous properties also and is essential for respiratory health, digestive health and liver detox. A definite must have on your spice shelf and in your diet!
That last one leads to this next one and my personal favorite, CURRY POWDER! I am obsessed with this spice for a few reasons. First, it just tastes so damn good! A perfect blend of savory and sweet, it's depth is like an explosion of flavor in your mouth. I love it because it's a mix of so many delicious spices all in one. Each blend varies, but most commonly contain turmeric, cumin, cardamom, fenugreek, clove, ginger, black pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper. All of those spices are divine separately and clearly together as well, according to my taste buds!
They all offer both complimentary additions to our pallet and our health. That list of spices as a whole, is a disease-staving combination! Containing again all mentioned minerals plus rich in vitamins A, B's, and C, it possesses anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory properties, supports bone health, the digestive/cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and aids in preventing infections and cognitive decline.
Is there any reason NOT to love this spice? That was rhetorical, there isn't! If you've never tried it please do, I promise you won't regret it. My favorite uses for it are: my mom's famous curry lentil soup recipe (which yes, I adopted as my own... shh), rice dishes, my hummus with a twist, pairing with fish or seafood (which is surprisingly good) or making my bursting with flavor curry & lemon sauce to smother on top of vegetable stir-fries. Oh I know I made you all hungry!
CAYENNE POWDER AND PAPRIKA are up next. I am combining these two into one as they contain similar nutritional value, however they are not the same spice!
Cayenne powder made from the spicy cayenne pepper, is typically used to make hot sauces and to add heat to any dish you want spicy. Paprika is also made from peppers but most commonly from either sweet red bell peppers or spicy chili peppers. It is often used to color or garnish dishes but also emits wonderful flavor. Depending on the pepper used and way it's dried, it can have either a sweet pepper, pungent spice or a rich smoky flavor. I personally add cayenne and paprika to everything (small pinch), as I am a fan of spicy food and they both come with such advantages health-wise.
Mutually rich in potassium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, B6, C, E and K, they are powerhouses for fighting inflammation and for immune system support. They help to fight oxidative stress in the body. Capsaicin, the main compound in both cayenne and chili peppers, not only gives them their heat but also helps regulate blood sugar, balances hormones, helps declining eyesight, and supports the cardiovascular system by helping with anemia, blood pressure issues and poor circulation. Overall, these spices can flavor anything from eggs, soups, rice, fish and stews, while giving vitality to your body. We all have to learn to take the heat... well just a pinch anyway!
And last but not least the GREEN SPICES & HERBS! Again, I am jamming them all into one here, as it would simply be too long not to and they also generally contain the same nutritional profile. You know the ones I mean; basil, cilantro/coriander, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint, dill, marjoram, sage etc. Whether you are using them fresh or dried, these green spices are essential to any and virtually every meal! From fresh teas to sauces, omelets, stir fries, soups, salad dressings or dips, smoothies, fermented foods, homemade vegetable juices, you name it!
Whichever particular flavors you love or prefer for a given dish you are making is up to you, but for me, a collection of any of the above is necessary at all times in my kitchen! Their substantial micronutrient content makes them essential for boosting the immune system and alkalizing the body to best combat viral, fungal and bacterial infections. Their ability to minimize inflammation is key to fighting dis-ease, as that is often one of the primary causes of illness to begin with. Aiding the digestive and respiratory systems and detoxifying the liver, are just a few more these herbs can do. Without question green herbs are essential for optimal health and happy bellies!
Alright, so that concludes some base spices we should all have in our homes, but the world is your oyster in terms of savory flavors out there that can be used! There are many countries and many cuisines with countless spices we undoubtedly haven't even heard of yet. This was just for all of you who are either looking to get into the kitchen a little more and aren't sure where to start, or those who are perhaps unwell with low energy and trying to fight illness. These spices and many others will be your best friend in terms of making some serious lifestyle and dietary changes to heal your body. Consuming spices and herbs as part of your everyday routine does wonders for your physical, emotional and mental well-being, as they are so incredibly nourishing and healing. Get in the kitchen and let food be thy medicine! Cheers to nourishing our bodies and stuffing our faces with some seriously mouth-watering soul food!