Spice Things Up This Holiday Season

Spice Things Up This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for decadent and indulgent sweets, treats and desserts. Most people fear the holidays because of excess calorie intake and weight gain. I like to think of the holiday season as an excuse to consume some of the most fragrant and comforting flavors of the year! Comfort yourself with warm health-boosting spices and you will head into the New Year with a newfound appreciation for the holiday season.

Take a look at some of the most cherished holiday spices that make the holidays the best time of the year!

Peppermint

Did you know that peppermint is actually a hybrid mint? It’s a cross between watermint and spearmint. Peppermint has many beneficial health properties, including a high antioxidant rating, and it has been shown to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

The Peppermint leaf contains many essential oils, like menthol, which has analgesic (painkiller), local anesthetic and counter-irritant properties. Peppermint has also been studied and is thought to help the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). It's also high in many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. The leaves of mint also contain many important B-complex vitamins, riboflavin vitamin B6, and vitamin K.

Peppermint is found in many cough lozenges and cold relief medicine because it acts on cold-sensitive receptors in the skin, mouth and throat. This is what creates that nasal passage opening sensation when we use these products. The analgesic and local anesthetic properties in peppermint makes it a great ingredient for topical muscle relaxants and analgesics.

We often think about candy canes when we think about peppermint, but we can't forget one of the most obvious uses: toothpaste! It is used in oral hygiene products and bad-breath remedies such as mouthwash, toothpaste, breathe mints and chewing-gum!

Use in your Healthy Holiday Kitchen

Peppermint leaves are commonly used in holidays teas, lattes, cocktails, ice cream, as a garnish and on top of a salad. Throw in 2-3 leaves in your Blast for a refreshing, minty taste.

Ginger

Ginger is commonly used in Asian and Indian cuisine, but is also used all over the world for its health benefits. It's a root which can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form or as juice.

Ginger is best known to assist in relief of digestive problems (i.e. nausea, morning sickness, loss of appetite, motion sickness and pain) due to its naturally occurring phenolic compounds. We consume ginger as tea, in ginger lozenges, ginger ale and, of course, gingerbread!

Ginger contains awesome anti-inflammatory properties and was shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer based on a study published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention. Other interesting studies have shown a reduction in pain sensation in people with dysmenorrhea and osteoarthritis.

Use in your Healthy Holiday Kitchen

Using fresh ginger is an easy way to add flavor to vegetables without adding extra fat, calories or sodium. Very little is needed to create a wonderful flavor. Use it when cooking seafood dishes, chicken, vegetables, pastas dishes, smoothies, stir frys, salad dressings, teas, lattes and baking. Use a quarter inch in your Blast for a spicy kick!

Tip: In most recipes, one-eighth teaspoon of ground ginger can be substituted for one tablespoon of fresh grated ginger.

Cranberries

We're served cranberries from Thanksgiving through New Year's - they're a holiday classic! They're used in everything from stuffing and sauces, to breads, drinks and side dishes. They liven up most dishes because they're bright and flavorful. Luckily, they also have many beneficial health properties.

Often referred to as a super food, cranberries are low in calories and contain tons of health-enhancing nutrients. Most notably, they provide relief from UTIs (urinary tract infections) and can help with respiratory disorders, kidney stones, cancer and heart disease. Cranberries are also beneficial in preventing stomach disorders and can help control diabetes. They have a similar antioxidant profile as broccoli, spinach, and apples. Cranberries are also high in Vitamin C, fiber Vitamin E and vitamin K.

Use in your Healthy Holiday Kitchen

Cranberries can be a healthy addition to trail mixes, used in your NutriBlasts or as a topping for breakfast cereals or yogurt. They also go great baked into bread, muffins or apple crisp.

Anise

Anise is an herb used as a flavoring agent. It has a sweet, aromatic taste that is similar to black licorice. It is most commonly found in alcohols and liqueurs, such as sambuca and anisette. Anise is also found in certain dairy products, candies and breath fresheners.

This little herb can be used for upset stomach, flatulence, the common cold, cough and as a diuretic and appetite stimulant. There are certain chemicals in anise that mimic estrogen. Some women’s health studies have shown that when nursing mothers supplement their diet with anise, they can increase milk flow, decrease menstrual discomfort and decrease pain from childbirth. Anise has also been used in the treatment of seizures, to assist in smoking cessation, insomnia, asthma, constipation. When used topically it has been beneficial in treating lice, scabies and psoriasis.

Anise is also a great source of calcium, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Use in your Healthy Holiday Kitchen

Anise is used in savory and sweet dishes, to which it imparts sweet-aromatic flavors to a variety of cuisines. Use in soups, sauces, breads, cakes, teas, and cocktails.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is one of the most popular holiday spices! It is known to relieve pain, soothe indigestion, increase brainpower, detoxify the body, contribute to the health of skin, alleviate oral problems, improve insomnia, boost immune function, possibly prevent leukemia and improve overall blood circulation.

While we don’t tend to consume a lot of nutmeg (it's usually used sparingly), it can still impact our health in many ways. It's nutrient-rich, containing many different vitamins, minerals, and nutritive compounds. Some of these include fiber, manganese, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and copper.

Nutmeg is linked to pain reduction, improvements in digestive health and improvements in aging and brain function. It's been thought to play a role in dissolving kidney stones and increase efficiency of the kidney and liver. Nutmeg is often an ingredient in oral health products because of its antibacterial properties. Nutmeg is also high in magnesium, which can improve insomnia.

Skin Health: Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, herbal and traditional medicines have long used nutmeg to boost the appearance and health of skin. Most commonly, it's applied as a paste mixed with water or even honey. It can help reduce inflammation and irritation of the skin, promote hydration and a smooth appearance, as well as reduce the signs and marks from pox, boils, and acne.

Use in your Healthy Holiday Kitchen

Nutmeg can be sprinkled into oatmeal, used when making trial mix, or added to your NutriBlasts or tea. It's used commonly in baking and even sprinkled into coffee when brewing.

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach


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