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Spices can add both flavor and antioxidants. Here are 10 ways to incorporate spices into your dishes!

Image of various spices and utensils.

It’s a smart idea to find ways to flavor your food with spices, which provide both a regional and a cultural identity to whatever you prepare, along with many health benefits. Spices are made from the aromatic dried buds, flowers, fruits, seeds, berries, bark, and roots of plants. They can add both flavor and antioxidants to your food and help you wean your palate from salt, which many of us rely upon too much for its familiar flavor. Start with adding just a little spice (measure about ¼ teaspoon) to familiar foods and go from there.

Here’s a quick look at some popular spices. Experiment with just one, and then combine several to come up with your own flavors.  

  1. Allspice tastes like several spices at once--pepper, cloves, and nutmeg. Crush whole berries in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle on baked squash or add to cooked beans.

  2. Cayenne, which is ground hot red chili pepper, boosts the flavor and adds a little kick to sauces, stews, and seafood dishes. Or, instead of butter, sprinkle it on popcorn.

  3. Cinnamon is a good spice for applesauce or stewed fruit. Sprinkle a little on ground coffee before brewing.

  4. Coriander comes from the seeds of the cilantro plant. Sprinkle it dried into chili and bean dishes.

  5. Cumin is an important Middle Eastern spice. Stir it into Greek yogurt for an instant dip or sauce for wraps, or sprinkle a little bit on hummus.

  6. Curry powder is a mixture of spices and a great convenience for busy cooks. Add a pinch or two to chicken or tuna salad, or toss it with potatoes or sweet potatoes before roasting.

  7. Ginger spices up fruit salad or sliced melon. Or, dust it over carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes before roasting.

  8. Nutmeg works well in quiches, sautéed spinach and other greens, and cheese sauces served with pasta. Buy a few whole nutmegs, keep them in a tightly sealed jar, and grate them against the small holes of a box grater.

  9. Paprika is not just for sprinkling on hard-cooked eggs. Look for “smoked paprika,” which has a pungent, hot flavor that wakes up grain dishes, seafood and vegetable stews, hummus, and dips of all kinds.

  10. Turmeric adds heightened flavor and a warm yellow color to rice and grain dishes. Or blend it with cumin for chilies and vegetable stews.

Information provided by Oldways and the Oldways Nutrition Exchange

Caitlyn Ferin RD, LD

Caitlyn Ferin RD, LD

Registered Dietitian

Caitlyn graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in Dietetics. She has worked in nutrition at Mid Iowa Community Action and as a clinical dietitian for the Iowa Veterans Home and Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center. Her goal is to help you and your family develop and maintain healthy lifestyles by sharing creative and practical nutrition tips.

Click here for more information on our dietitians.

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