xoFood: 5 Spices I'm Obsessed With, and Why

Many spices have amazing health benefits, and sprinkling them into things seems like a simple source for preventative medicine. Health care for the lazy, perhaps?
Publish date:
January 8, 2014
cooking, spices, Ginger Spice, healthy eating

I'm a bit obsessed with spices. It could be because vegan food is stereotypically bland, and I'm hyper-concious about this stigma. Or it could be because many spices have amazing health benefits, and sprinkling them into things seems like a simple source for preventative medicine. Health care for the lazy, perhaps?

Whatever the reason, my top 5 spices are as follows: Cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, basil. I like to use them raw whenever possible, but if not, dried is cool too. At least one of these spices makes its way into just about everything I cook. Here is why:

Cinnamon. Aside from being absolutely delicious, this stuff is anti-microbial, helps battle yeast infections and levels blood sugar levels. I have never had fresh raw cinnamon, but I add the dried stuff to anything on the sweet side: oatmeal, roasted root veggies, smoothies. It's also terrific in chili, and I sprinkle it into my coffee grounds before I brew. It adds a nice fancy flavor.

Cayenne. This hot little pepper has been shown to help prevent headaches, break up bodily mucus (mmm), aid digestion, stimulate your circulatory system (which is what happens when you detox), and fight bacteria. It is also speculated to boost your metabolism. Because I enjoy spicy food, I put cayenne, literally, on everything. It's really nice sprinkled over popcorn with a little salt and pepper.

Turmeric. This knobby yellow root supposedly clears infection and inflammation, supports the liver, and some believers even claim it helps block cancer. If you want to get it raw, you can find it hanging at the store near the ginger root. It's great in scrambles (tofu for me, maybe egg for you), soups, and stirfrys. I also make a paste out of it, mix it into some almond milk, and drink it. A former Miss USA (Susie Castillo) swore her teeth were white because she made her own turmeric toothpaste! You can also just get it in pill-form.

Ginger. Gingah! That's how I like to say it. Ginger helps remedy nausea, improves our body's ability to absorb nutrients, and also helps quell flatulence. Now that sounds appealing, doesn't it? Ancient Ayurvedic texts credit ginger as an aphrodisiac, but I'm not sold on that one yet. Fresh ginger goes into my smoothies, juices and marinades. I also chop it up and put it in tea with lemon. You might want to start small –- it's crazy potent!

Basil. Basil on everything! Typically a summer staple, you can grow this herb in a pot inside. I add it fresh to salads and sammiches, and I throw it into my blender when making smoothies. An awesome and unlikely smoothie combo is basil and blueberry. Add a little frozen banana, some ice and the milk of your choice and bang! If you want to go the more traditional route, make a big batch of pesto and top it on chopped veggies or sandwiches. Too much pesto? Freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray for a quick defrost.

What spices are you obsessed with? How do you cook with them? Have you ever brushed your teeth with turmeric?

Find Zoe on Instagram and Twitter to see what else she's obsessed with. (Mainly geckos, her puppy, and taking photos of lunch...)