Herbs and spices can boost flavor and may come with health benefits

If you are looking for a way to boost the flavor of your food and maybe eat a little healthier, Candice Schreiber, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital, recommends hitting your local farmers market or heading to the fresh produce section.

"Plants are going to be my number one thing, to add things like herbs and vegetables and fruits and beans and things like that," Schreiber says.  "So, the more plants, the better."  

Because plants, including herbs and spices, Schreiber says, contain compounds known as phytochemicals that strengthen the plant's immune system and could have potential benefits for us.

"They could help support a healthy immune system," she says. "They could help repair any damaged DNA that's in our bodies. They can be anti-inflammatory. So herbs, all plants have these phytochemicals."

You have lots of choices: ginger, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, and nutmeg.

"My biggest recommendation for anything is to eat a variety," Schreiber says. "Find ones that you like, find ones that are accessible and, you know, get as many as you can."

You could try lesser-known herbs, like holy basil, a type of basil used in traditional Indian medicine that is thought to help ease inflammation and pain.

"I would say find used things that you can find," Schreiber says. "I'm not sure how accessible that is. Also, holy basil is not going to be what you want to make your pesto or what you want to put in your Italian dishes. It's it has more of a peppery clove-like flavor."

But, Schreiber says, whether are choosing fresh or dried herbs and spices, experiment to see what you like.

"Thyme is one of my favorite, just because it's versatile, and you can use it in pretty much everything, and rosemary is another good one," she says.  

"Keep things on hand that can be used in a lot of different dishes, like thyme, rosemary, parsley and basil. Those types of things can be pretty universal and used in a lot of things."