Spicing up your cooking (literally)

posted Jul 14, 2015, 4:24 AM by Rebecca Smith   [ updated Jul 14, 2015, 4:24 AM ]
We all know the pivotal role a healthy, well-balanced diet plays in our everyday performance, well-being, longevity and health in general, in light of this understanding, the vast majority of the general population still opt for the “easy” options; such as fast food and other processed foods at the expense of health and wellbeing, why is this? Because it tastes good! Unfortunately, healthy eating has, and always will carry a social stigma with it. The very idea of having to spend time preparing a meal that is going to be, at best, borderline tolerated is enough to push people through the McDonald’s drive-thru.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though, with a few added ingredients, we can turn that bland rubbery excuse of chicken breast into something special. Let’s spice things up!

The health benefits of spices

Not only can spices drive your taste buds crazy, some actually carry added health benefits. Let’s take a look at some.

Cayenne Pepper

The powdered form of the Cayenne Chilli. Cayenne pepper contains a compound known as Capsaicin, which has been found to assist in the relief of musculoskeletal and joint pain. An excellent addition to any meat dish, just don’t rub your eyes after cooking with it!


One of the more versatile herbs, and even used in some medicines, ginger is well known for its treatment for stomach problems, such as; diarrhea, nausea, bloating. Etc. also commonly used to treat colds and sore throats. You will find ginger in wide array of Asian dishes, and is also commonly used in teas or juices.


Not only is it great at keeping away the vampires, garlic has been shown to contain properties that aid in the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown the potential efficacy of garlic in the prevention of lung and brain cancers. Just be sure to have some gum on standby, this stuff can be potent.


A herb, very well known for its aroma, is commonly used in the treatment of throat and respiratory issues, such as bronchitis, sore throats and coughs and has also been shown to ease stomach pain. I personally like to sprinkle thyme over my greens, such as broccoli and green beans for added flavour.

Chinese Five Spice

Five spices in one! Not exactly a single spice, however, with four of these spices being cinnamon, Chinese star anise, clove and fennel, it’s hard to argue against the health benefits of this spice, such benefits including; treatment for upset stomachs and intestinal problems found in cloves, digestive problems such as heart burn, bloating, and intestinal gas found in fennel, respiratory tract infection treatment, inflammation and increase of libido found in CHINESE star anise (not Japanese, which is poisonous), and antioxidant properties found in cinnamon. As you can see, this is one hell of a spice mixture, as such, it should be used sparingly, in saying that, it goes great with chicken, duck and pork!

This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of available spices on the market, other special mentions include; turmeric, cumin, rosemary, sage, Cajun (use sparingly), and paprika.

Utilising the spices in your cooking

Now you’re (hopefully) somewhat convinced as to the benefits of cooking with spices, now is the time to get in the kitchen! What do you do now? Experiment! The use of spice is going to be subjective from person to person based on individual taste, play around, see what you like, and what you don’t. As a guideline, most packaging will display what the spice goes well with.

As an example, here is a common spice mixture I use with poultry dishes.

Garlic, onion powder, Cajun, cayenne pepper, paprika and chilli flakes for added kick, if you enjoy spicy food.

So don’t be afraid to spice things up in the kitchen! The variety spice has to offer to flavouring food is endless, and it may be just what you need to keep you from falling for the temptation of foods high in sodium and Trans fats. Now get cooking!