When was the last time you went on a shopping spree in the spice aisle? Or just poked around in the back corners of your spice cabinet? Chances are, it's been a while. Seasonings spark up flavor in a big way — so why do we forget, beyond the usual chili pot, to break out those toasty, zippy wonders, much less finish a jar's worth?
We gotta start raising our spice game, says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, because with the right seasonings, we can "minimize the need for excess salt, fat, and sometimes even sugar."
Research, including investigations funded by the National Institutes of Health, also suggests that specific spices may help fight diseases such as cancer and arthritis. "Many spices contain concentrated levels of beneficial compounds that possibly rival the effectiveness of certain drugs," says Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., fellowship director for the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine and author of Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions. Scientists aren't sure yet how those benefits carry over into the kitchen, but spices are definitely a mouthwatering essential in any stay-healthy eating plan, Low Dog says.
Ready to spice things up? These recipes and seasoning tips will get you going, but you don't even need a recipe — just play.
(All dishes serve 4, except where noted.)