Herbs and Spices Rich in Antioxidants

While a major diet and exercise overhaul may seem overwhelming, the benefits are still indisputable. Baby steps help, and adding antioxidant-rich herbs and spices to your diet can be a baby step in the right direction.

Spice up your menu and add antioxidants to your diet.

Spice up your menus and add antioxidants to your diet.

iStockphoto.com/Georgina Palmer

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Warmer weather is here, motivating many people to eat more healthfully and exercise to get in shape. A dramatic diet overhaul and change in routine can seem overwhelming. That’s why the “small changes” approach is gaining popularity.

Shifting the focus to small, achievable steps is a concept that’s currently being championed by a task force of the American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists and the International Food Information Council. The group says small changes are more feasible to achieve and sustain – and they can add up to make an even greater impact.

"Making simple lifestyle changes to boost health is easier than people think,” says Wendy Bazilian, author of The Superfoods Rx Diet. “For example, taking a four-minute walk or adding 300 steps each day adds up to an extra mile by the end of the week.”

One of Bazilian’s simplest – and most surprising – strategies to boost health and wellness is to add antioxidant-rich spices and herbs – like oregano, cinnamon and ginger – to meals, snacks and beverages. Instead of sacrificing taste when reducing some of those “off-limit” ingredients in the name of health, adding spices and herbs to foods enhances not only nutrition value, but also flavor.

While colorful fruits such as blueberries and pomegranates, and dark leafy veggies like spinach and kale are commonly known as “super foods” with powerful antioxidants, certain spices and herbs are actually rich in antioxidants, too.

“People might be surprised to learn that one-half teaspoon of ground cinnamon has as many antioxidants as one-half cup raspberries or strawberries, and just one-half teaspoon of oregano has as many antioxidants as three cups of fresh spinach,” Bazilian says.

Cinnamon and oregano are two of the McCormick seven Super Spices highlighted for their antioxidant activity that is comparable to many fruits and vegetables, including today’s “super foods.”

“Because the Super Spices are commonly found in home pantries, they can be such an economical and convenient enhancement to a daily meal and snack routine,” Bazilian says.

Bazilian and McCormick offer simple tips to incorporate wellness into every day living:

● Stay hydrated with water, green tea or lowfat milk throughout the day to keep up energy levels.

● Add a flavor and a health-boosting kick to hummus or guacamole by stirring in 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper or crushed red pepper.

● Brown-bag it to work. Packing a lunch is one of the easiest ways to positively influence diet and avoid unhealthy temptations inside or outside the office.

● Create spiced Curried Pilaf by adding 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry to 2 cups hot cooked rice. Add flavor and texture with a handful of shredded carrots, peas, raisins or toasted sliced almonds.

For more flavorful, antioxidant-boosting tips and recipes, plus information about the Super Spices and health, visit the website.