There are many reasons to add spices to your food. The most obvious might be the varying rich flavors that different spices can contribute to your meals without adding any calories, fat, sugar or salt. But research also indicates that fall spices can have health benefits as well. Adding spices to your dishes just may help boost your immunity or contribute to overall better health.
Let’s look at 10 seasonal spices that will add delicious flavor—and health advantages—to your autumn menu:
Derived from the inner bark of trees in the Cinnamomum genus, cinnamon is one of the most popular and well-known fall spices out there. It adds a distinctive flavor to many different baked goods, breakfast cereals and even hot drinks. But this aromatic spice also has some valuable health benefits. For instance, a recent study, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, found that cinnamon may improve blood sugar control among prediabetic people. Cinnamon is also known to be loaded with powerful antioxidants such as polyphenols, believed to have disease-fighting capabilities and even help with weight management.
This Cinnamon Apple Parfait is a great way to get the most out of this delicious fall spice. You can also start your fall mornings with a cinnamon-flavored breakfast from Nutrisystem! You’ll love our Cinnamon Brown Sugar Oat Square and Cinnamon Streusel Muffin.
Fresh ginger is said to be slightly peppery while simultaneously sweet. It adds delicious flavor to food while also serving as a natural antihistamine and decongestant. A review of literature, published in Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, has shown some evidence that ginger can help prevent colds, prevent and soothe a sore throat, reduce congestion and reduce inflammation. It has also long been used to calm and upset stomach or nausea. Add fresh ginger to soups, stir-fries, or even make a cup of ginger tea.
This spice is known for its warm, nutty flavor and can really liven up a number of dishes by adding some sweet and savory zeal. Like other fall spices, nutmeg is known to contain powerful antioxidants, says Phytochemistry Reviews. Because of this, it has been used in traditional remedies for stomach and kidney disorders. While you might think of nutmeg mostly in terms of adding flavor to baked goods, it can also pair well with beef or add unique flavor to certain vegetables like kale or squash.
This fragrant evergreen herb is native to the Mediterranean and a member of the mint family. It is a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin B-6. According to the Journal of Medicinal Food, there have also been some small clinical trials linking rosemary to cognitive health. In terms of flavoring food, rosemary can be used fresh or dried to enrich the flavor of meat and vegetables. Rosemary sprigs can also be used to infuse flavor into olive oil or various beverages. As with any spice, its flavor-enhancing abilities just may have you eating healthier. For instance, these Rosemary Kale Chips are a great way to get more greens into your day.
Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree and in ground form can make a versatile spice that can flavor many dishes such as sauces, soups and rice. Cloves are often paired with cinnamon or nutmeg for seasonal dishes. In addition to containing vitamins and minerals, cloves are also high in antioxidants which can help contribute to overall good health, says the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. According to Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, cloves have also been shown to have some antimicrobial power. We have found that cloves pair well with eggplant and beets for more flavorful and unique veggies.
Contrary to popular belief, allspice is not a blend of various fall spices. Instead, it’s a distinctive ingredient from the dried unripe berry of the Pimenta dioica tree, indigenous to the Caribbean as well as Mexico and Central America. It got its name thanks to its flavor similarities to cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper. The anti-inflammatory properties of allspice make it a good choice for upset stomachs and nausea, says the peer-reviewed journal, Current Cancer Drug Targets. Its antioxidant power also makes it good to boost overall health and immunity. Try sprinkling a pinch of allspice on roasted vegetables for some warm flavor.
Cardamom is an Indian spice known for its intense and subtly sweet flavor. It is sometimes equated to the flavor of mint. According to the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics, the antioxidant power of cardamom might be responsible for lowering blood pressure. It’s been used for thousands of years to aid in digestion, stomach discomfort and nausea, says Healthline. Cardamom pairs well with poultry, lentils and rice dishes. We also suggest boosting the flavor factor of your oatmeal with a sprinkle of cardamom.
Vanilla’s antioxidant power is one of its most valuable benefits, says Livestrong.com. We most often cook or bake with vanilla in the extract form. However, when used as a powder or paste form, it can add powerful flavor. While we usually think of adding vanilla to desserts—and that’s certainly where it shines—vanilla can also offset the acidity of tomatoes, such as in salsa recipes.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” It is one of the most precious spices in the world and is therefore not cheap. However, it will add a subtly sweet and totally luxurious taste to dishes that you’ll appreciate. We think it pairs fantastically well with fish and rice. Like the other fall spices, it can be powerful in terms of its antioxidant abilities. Murdoch University has found, “saffron can enhance the quality of sleep in adults who have been experiencing poor sleep.”
10. Pumpkin Spice
Finally, what can be more quintessentially fall than pumpkin spice? Pumpkin spice is actually a blend that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Some blends even add in cardamom and cloves for added sweetness. This means that in addition to putting you in a festive mood, pumpkin spice can also have some of the combined health benefits of these various fall spices. Of course, if you get your pumpkin spice fix with processed baked goods or a calorie-laden drink, those benefits may be negated. Therefore, we recommend trying a healthier recipe, like these Pumpkin Spice Bars or this Skinny Pumpkin Latte.