Food Shopping and Storing Herbs and Spices 5 Spices That Not Only Taste Good, They're Good for You You should always have these healthiest spices on hand. By Kristy Del Coro, MS, RDN, LDN Kristy Del Coro, MS, RDN, LDN Instagram Website Kristy Del Coro is a registered dietitian nutritionist, RDN, and professionally trained chef with more than 10 years of experience in the field of culinary nutrition. Her strong background in nutrition science, sustainable food systems, and culinary education makes her exceptionally qualified to write about food that is good for us and the planet—while not sacrificing flavor. Real Simple's Editorial Guidelines Updated on November 7, 2022 Fact checked by Haley Mades Fact checked by Haley Mades Haley is a Wisconsin-based creative freelancer and recent graduate. She has worked as an editor, fact checker, and copywriter for various digital and print publications. Her most recent position was in academic publishing as a publicity and marketing assistant for the University of Wisconsin Press Our Fact-Checking Process Share Tweet Pin Email Spices are transformative. Full of spark and zest, they can give a dish a distinct personality, and a sense of place and origin. The same protein, grain, and vegetable can combine for a completely different food experience, depending on the spices used. But they're not just flavor bombs. Spices have incredible health benefits (related to their bioactive compounds) that have been touted since the time of ancient civilizations. And thanks to modern science, many of these spices now also have evidence-based research to back this up. Spices deliver the complete package, boosting both flavor and nutrition (without any downside). A well-stocked pantry of spices will be slightly different for everyone, but as a chef and RD, I've narrowed down my top five spices that are versatile across cuisines and also have the most significant benefits in terms of health, so you can create winning recipes any day of the week. 01 of 05 Cinnamon A classically spiced pumpkin treat suitable for breakfast, a snack, or dessert. Vegetable oil (instead of butter) keeps these extra moist. Get the recipe:Pumpkin Muffins. Grace Elkus Cinnamon-Spiced Pumpkin Muffins Cinnamon is one of the most familiar and commonly utilized spices and can be used in both sweet and savory cooking. Health Benefits There are numerous studies demonstrating cinnamon's blood glucose-lowering effects, including this 2020 study that showed just 500 milligrams of cinnamon (about ¼ teaspoon) three times per day can lower fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels in people with prediabetes. Cinnamon's bioactive compounds collectively have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, and antifungal activities. There is even some preliminary evidence that cinnamon may help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides. Culinary Uses In the kitchen, cinnamon can go far beyond its ubiquitous use in oatmeal and sweet desserts. Cinnamon sticks can be used to infuse cinnamon flavor into beverages, such as cinnamon tea or coffee, or added during the cooking process to a braising liquid, stew, or tomato sauce, or even rice. Ground cinnamon can be added to smoothies, yogurt, granola, baked goods, used as part of a spice rub or seasoning for meat and vegetables, or simply sprinkled on top as a finishing garnish. RELATED: True Cinnamon Boasts Some Sweet Benefits—Here's How to Tell if You're Eating the Real Deal 02 of 05 Turmeric Caitlin Bensel Mango-Turmeric Smoothie A member of the ginger family, turmeric is an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine but can be utilized in any home kitchen. Health Benefits Turmeric's health benefits are numerous, and its active compound curcumin is one of the most widely studied phytochemicals due to its powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Some studies show curcumin may inhibit the growth of tumor cells as well as reduce inflammatory markers in the body. Turmeric is also being researched for its gut and brain health benefits and may also help lower total cholesterol and triglycerides.Additionally, there is some evidence that curcumin may play a role in managing symptoms of depression as well as be integrated into therapeutic treatments for Alzheimer's disease. Culinary Uses Turmeric is a root, similar to ginger, that can be consumed freshly grated or dried. Dried ground turmeric is what you will find in the spice aisle. Turmeric can be added to a variety of foods from vegetables and grains to soups and stews to curries, as well as smoothies and snacks, such as turmeric-spiced nuts and popcorn. It is a key ingredient in "golden milk," due to its signature golden hue. To optimize absorption, it is best to consume turmeric after it has been heated in some kind of fat (oil or butter) and also paired with piperine, the active ingredient in black and white pepper. 03 of 05 Ginger Michael Paul Ginger Chicken Soup With Vegetables Ginger can be consumed as a fresh root or dried and ground, used as a spice. Health Benefits Ginger contains an active compound called gingerol, which contains phytonutrients that acts as an antioxidant along with antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that ginger can help alleviate nausea and vomiting, specifically related to those symptoms during pregnancy and chemotherapy. Ginger consumption may also help alleviate pain associated with rheumatism. Specific amounts in studies vary, but conclude that generally less than 1 teaspoon of ground ginger per day will provide effective relief. Culinary Uses Dried ginger has a strong concentrated flavor, especially if recently opened. Ground ginger is used commonly in baked goods paired with falls spices, such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, but is also a great spice to use in savory dishes. It works well in spice rubs for meat and poultry, as well as marinades for vegetables and tofu. Ground ginger is also commonly found in North African spice blends, such as ras el hanout. 04 of 05 Fennel Seeds Jennifer Causey Spicy Fennel Fried Shrimp and Celer Fennel seeds, the seeds of the fennel plant, have a licorice or anise aroma and flavor. They can be consumed whole on their own or used in cooking. Health Benefits The active compound anethole is what gives fennel its pronounced anise aroma and flavor as well as its health benefits. Anethole has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties as well as aids in digestion. Just 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds delivers 2 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese (an important mineral for a variety of bodily functions, including metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation, brain and nerve function). Fennel seeds also contain calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Culinary Uses Fennel seeds are used in sweet and savory dishes around the world. In Ayurvedic medicine, they are commonly chewed and eaten after meals to aid in digestion. Fennel seeds can be added to breads and crackers before baking as well as used in spice blends and seasonings for fish, poultry, and seafood. To enhance their flavor, lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan before using. 05 of 05 Paprika Jennifer Causey Paprika Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Potatoes and Dill Cream Paprika is found in three varieties: sweet, hot, and smoked (linked to the variety of red pepper used before drying and grinding) and all can be just the right addition to take your dish to the next level. Health Benefits Paprika contains the active compound capsaicin, recognized for a number of health benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Keep in mind, the hotter the paprika, the more capsaicin it will contain. Paprika also contains a surprisingly concentrated amount of vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, as well as a variety of phytochemicals. Just 1 tablespoon of paprika provides nearly 20 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin A. Culinary Uses There is a use for all three varieties of paprika depending on your flavor preferences and the dish. Sweet paprika, often referred to as Hungarian paprika, is the most all-purpose form of paprika due to its mild heat level and sweet notes. Smoked paprika, often referred to as Spanish Pimenton Paprika, is a great way to add smoky flavor without actually smoking food, and can be the perfect way to impart a meaty flavor in plant-based dishes. Hot paprika will be labeled as such, and can be a great alternative to cayenne pepper. To bring out the best flavor and optimize the absorption of all those great phytochemicals, paprika is ideally heated in some fat, rather than just sprinkling on a dish after it is prepared. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Jiang TA. Health benefits of culinary herbs and spices. J AOAC Int. 2019;102(2):395-411. doi:10.5740/jaoacint.18-0418. Kizilaslan N, Erdem NZ. The Effect of Different Amounts of Cinnamon Consumption on Blood Glucose in Healthy Adult Individuals. Int J Food Sci. 2019 Mar 4;2019:4138534. doi: 10.1155/2019/4138534. Romeo GR, Lee J, Mulla CM, Noh Y, Holden C, Lee BC. Influence of Cinnamon on Glycemic Control in Individuals With Prediabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Endocr Soc. 2020 Jul 13;4(11):bvaa094. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvaa094. Rao PV, Gan SH. Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:642942. doi: 10.1155/2014/642942. Maierean SM, Serban MC, Sahebkar A, et al. The effects of cinnamon supplementation on blood lipid concentrations: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Lipidology. 2017;11(6):1393-1406. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2017.08.004. Giordano A, Tommonaro G. Curcumin and Cancer. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 5;11(10):2376. doi: 10.3390/nu11102376. Peterson CT, Vaughn AR, Sharma V, Chopra D, Mills PJ, Peterson SN, Sivamani RK. Effects of Turmeric and Curcumin Dietary Supplementation on Human Gut Microbiota: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2018 Jan-Dec;23:2515690X18790725. doi: 10.1177/2515690X18790725. Qin S, Huang L, Gong J, Shen S, Huang J, Ren H, Hu H. Efficacy and safety of turmeric and curcumin in lowering blood lipid levels in patients with cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr J. 2017 Oct 11;16(1):68. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0293-y. Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, Patel T, Tiwari D, Panchal B, Goel A, Tripathi CB. Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):579-85. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5025. Chen M, Du ZY, Zheng X, Li DL, Zhou RP, Zhang K. Use of curcumin in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Neural Regen Res. 2018 Apr;13(4):742-752. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.230303. Mao QQ, Xu XY, Cao SY, Gan RY, Corke H, Beta T, Li HB. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods. 2019 May 30;8(6):185. doi: 10.3390/foods8060185. Lete I, Allué J. The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integr Med Insights. 2016 Mar 31;11:11-7. doi: 10.4137/IMI.S36273. Aryaeian N, Shahram F, Mahmoudi M, Tavakoli H, Yousefi B, Arablou T, Jafari Karegar S. The effect of ginger supplementation on some immunity and inflammation intermediate genes expression in patients with active Rheumatoid Arthritis. Gene. 2019 May 25;698:179-185. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2019.01.048. Maryam Salami, Mehdi Rahimmalek, Mohammad Hossein Ehtemam.Inhibitory effect of different fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) samples and their phenolic compounds on formation of advanced glycation products and comparison of antimicrobial and antioxidant activities. Food Chemistry.Volume 213, 2016, Pages 196-205. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.06.070. McCarty MF, DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH. Capsaicin may have important potential for promoting vascular and metabolic health. Open Heart. 2015 Jun 17;2(1):e000262. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2015-000262.