Chew on This

Chew on This: Spices make food flavorful, and more healthy

Science has once again validated observation and common sense. This time it is herbs and spices going through scientific review.

A research group at the University of Colorado has demonstrated that the addition of herbs and spices increases consumer “liking” of a reduced fat meal, something home cooks and chefs have known forever. This research was funded by McCormick, which makes sense, and does not take away from the findings.

Subjects were given three versions of a meal of meatloaf with gravy, broccoli and cauliflower in butter sauce and penne with white sauce. The meals were full fat, reduced fat and reduced fat with herbs and spices.

For all foods, the plain reduced fat version came in last in terms of likability. The addition of spices to reduced fat foods led to full fat and reduced fat receiving equal likability scores. We will not eat food that is “good for us” if it doesn’t taste good. Spicing up food is easy. The reduced fat spiced meatloaf was made with 95 percent lean beef, and had herb seasoning, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

Spices and herbs add health benefits as well as flavor. A study last week in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry confirmed that oregano and rosemary were rich in antioxidants and eaten regularly may help with blood glucose control. Ginger has long been used for nausea control in seasickness and pregnancy. Delicious and fragrant basil is an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Cayenne is a pain reliever and sage is a memory enhancer.

And what doesn’t turmeric do? In addition to fighting inflammation and fungus, it also goes after cancer and is a source of vitamin C, E, K, copper, magnesium and zinc. Every herb and spice has something special that will boost health and flavor. All you have to do is be adventurous and try a few new ones. And to conserve the taste of dried spices store in a cool dry place away from the stove

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.