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Tired of choking down bland chicken, rice, and vegetables, or blowing your entire diet on meals drenched in full-fat condiments and sauces? Healthy doesn't have to mean tasteless. Rev up the flavor of any dull dish while boosting health benefits and sticking to your macros by adding in heart-healthy spices. The next time you prep a week of clean meals, don't skimp on the spice. Use these recommendations to please your palate while staying on track.
The Flavor Of Leanness
The Spice: Turmeric (curcumin)
Super Powers: There might be a reason India's population is 1.2 billion strong: curcumin. It helps keep you lean by filling your body with enzymes that stop you from storing fat, found research in the journal "Metabolism." This makes it a valuable ally if you reach your target body fat and want to stay at maintenance.
"What's more, several studies have found that [curcumin] helps protect you against food pesticides, reduces inflammation, prevents muscle loss when you diet, and fights cancer," says sports nutritionist Matt Lovell.
Use It: Include a few tablespoons in your rice when it starts to cook, or include it in any curry, stew, or soup to add a more authentic flavor. You can even add it to a cheesy cauliflower bake. Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey found curcumin bolsters cauliflower's cancer-bashing potency.
A Taste For Endurance
The Spice: Himalayan rock salt
Super Powers: Salt has gotten a poor rap—mostly because it rolls with a bad crowd, namely: high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and strokes. Still, it makes bland foods palatable! Luckily you can satisfy your "salt tooth" and stay healthy by switching to Himalayan rock salt.
Rather than using the evaporating seawater technique, this salt is mined from the earth, making it rich in the 84 minerals you need to keep your immune system strong. People who drank water containing this salt improved their respiratory conditions, organ functions, and connective tissues, found a study conducted at the University of Graz, Austria. They also slept better, had more energy, and could concentrate better.
Use It: This salt is so healthy that you can even sprinkle a little of it into your water bottle before sports. It will help you retain water so you don't flush as much out and become dehydrated. Another great alternative is to sprinkle it onto sliced cucumber for a refreshing, low-calorie snack.
Breathe Easy Branches
The Spice: Nasturtiums
Super Powers: These plants are often thought of as a weed. Fortunately they are found in backyards across the world, though few people appreciate what a powerful affect they can have on your performance and immune system.
Research in the German journal "Arzneimittelforschung" found that this herb was effective at treating acute sinusitis, bronchitis, and urinary tract infections. Since it grows prolifically all over the world, it is often used as an overall immune booster, which can also improve lung health.
Use It: Add these spicy leaves to put more zing in your beef sandwich, or include them in any kind of stew or curry.
Eat Away Your Hurt
The Spice: Oregano
Super Powers: First, we'd like to vouch for the super powers oregano bestows upon delicious, piping-hot pizza. That said, that green stuff that's sprinkled onto your favorite cheat meal does more than pack a flavor punch. Research at Bonn University in Zurich, Switzerland found that it is packed with a compound that can reduce inflammation. So if you've slogged your way through a leg workout that's left you with squat-ravaged legs, then this is the spice to reach for (just maybe not in pizza form).
Use It: This spice is extremely versatile, so add it in liberal amounts to any chicken or pasta dish. If you grow it, then it's an excellent filler in a pesto sauce.
Mouthful Of Muscle
The Spice: Mustard
Super Powers: Adding a dab of spicy mustard to your next meal could help you add on muscle. That's because an enzyme contained in mustard heightens your food's cancer-fighting abilities and helps you absorb more of its nutrients, especially when vegetables are included, found research in the "British Journal of Nutrition." The same enzyme was found in wasabi and horseradish. So the next time you head out for sushi, dab on the green stuff to make the most of your protein.
Use It: Mustard and wasabi are excellent additions to any stew or curry. If you're at the BBQ, opt for a honey mustard sauce to gain that extra serving of muscle.
- Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. "Curry And Cauliflower Could Halt Prostate Cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2006.
- Hendel, Dr. Barbara and Ferrerira, Peter. "Water and Salt: The Essence of Life: The Healing Power of Nature. Natural Resources, 2003.
- Conrad A, Kolberg T, Engels I, Frank U. "In vitro study to evaluate the antibacterial activity of a combination of the haulm of nasturtium (Tropaeoli majoris herba) and of the roots of horseradish (Armoaciae rusticanae radix." Arzneimittelforschung. 2006:56(12):842-9. German.
- Gregersen, N.T., et al. "Acute effects of mustard, horseradish, black pepper and ginger on energy expenmdidture, appetite, ad libitum energy intake and energy balance in human subject. British Journal of Nutrition. V. 109, Issue 03, Feb. 2013. 556-63.