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3 Herbs and spices to boost your health

Herbs and spices are a natural way to add flavor to any dish, but they can also help increase the health benefits of your meal. Here are three powerful herbs and spices packed with health benefits and a recipe to try for each.


Chili Pepper

First cultivated in Central and South American and used as a spice in many dishes, chili peppers such as cayenne, jalapeno, habanero and serrano, get their hot and spicy kick from a powerful plant compound called capsaicin. Contained in the seeds and inner membrane of the pepper, the more capsaicin, the hotter the pepper, whether eaten fresh, dried or powdered (known as paprika). Capsaicin causes an endorphin rush making it an effective remedy for all kinds of pain. It has also shown to promote weight loss by reducing calorie intake and shrinking fat tissue. Chili peppers also have anti-inflammatory properties, help boost immunity, reduce insulin levels and protect the heart by reducing triglycerides and cholesterol.

Recipe to try: Roasted Summer Squash with Smoked Paprika and Manchego Cheese

Ingredients:

Use 1-1/2 lbs summer squash cut into 1 inch chunks
Add 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Next, dice and add 1 yellow onion 
A tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
And 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Finally, add 1 cup manchego grated

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 420°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss squash in salt and pepper and place in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Once drained, transfer to a large bowl and toss with onion, olive oil and paprika. Arrange squash in a single layer on baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes, stirring after 25. Sprinkle with cheese and serve warm.


Cinnamon

One of the most popular spices used in the United States and Europe (second only to black pepper), cinnamon was used by medieval doctors to treat common conditions such as coughing, sore throats and arthritis pain. Cinnamon can be used to treat infections, muscle spasms and may help lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It also reduces some of the most common risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Finally, cinnamon also helps increase blood circulation and helps the body form blood clots. Used as a spice in cooking, cinnamon adds a naturally sweet taste without adding sugar, which in turn helps manage food cravings and weight gain.

Recipe to try: Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bake

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 apples, peeled, diced
1/4 cup raisins
2 eggs
2 cups vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup sugar-free maple syrup OR 1 teaspoon liquid stevia
1/3 cup almonds, chopped

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease an 8-by-8 baking dish. In a small bowl, mix uncooked quinoa with spices. Pour into greased dish. Sprinkle with apple and raisins. In a bowl, beat eggs and whisk in soy milk and sugar free syrup or stevia. Pour the egg mixture over the fruit and quinoa. Stir lightly. Sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake for one hour, or until mostly set. Serve warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt.


Basil

A nutrient-dense herb in the mint family, basil is used to add flavor to a variety of dishes. In addition to its aroma and flavor, basil contains numerous health benefits, including disease-fighting antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, cancer prevention and stress reduction. Basil also promotes heart health by preventing the clumping of platelets that can form a clot in the arteries causing cardiac arrest and reducing inflammation that can cause cardiovascular disease. Basil also helps to reduce blood sugar, triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Basil’s lively flavor can be enjoyed fresh or dried.

Recipe to try: Thai Basil Chicken Stir-Fry

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 teaspoon powdered stevia
1 tablespoon water
One tablespoon fish sauce
A tablespoon of peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
3 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1 1/2 cups sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly vertically sliced onion
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Instructions:
Combine hoisin, stevia, one tablespoon water and fish sauce in a bowl. Whisk together until stevia is dissolved. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat, coating with oil. Add garlic and serrano chile; stir-fry 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add chicken; stir-fry four minutes. Add bell pepper and onion; stir-fry two minutes. Add hoisin mixture and bring to a boil. Cook 30 seconds or until slightly thickened. Stir in basil and lime juice. Serve immediately.





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