Cooking can be so much fun, but bland food is a total let down. Especially if you’ve put in the time and effort to use quality ingredients and cooked your dishes to perfection. This is where a bit of herb and spice can make all the difference.

Salt and pepper are kitchen must-haves, but salt especially should be used in moderation. Herbs and spices can transform your dishes to mouthwatering bites of delight, with the use of minimal salt.

Here are our top 10 favourites

  1. Garlic powder: fresh garlic is fab, but when you’re pressed for time, garlic powder is a lifesaver. Use it as part of rubs, spice blends, dressings and vinaigrettes.
  2. Onion powder: like garlic powder, a great substitute for fresh onions when you need to save some time and need to skip the chopping and frying.
  3. Cayenne pepper: add a bit of heat to any dish with this pepper made from ground chillies. Hot sauces, Mexican and Cajun food call for it! Cayenne pepper is also a good source of antioxidants and vitamin A, which is important for eye health.
  4. Ground cumin: Did you know cumin is the fruit a plant in the parsley family? This aromatic spice is great in curries and even some desserts.
  5. Dried bay leaves: this woody herb gives deep flavour to soups, stews, long-simmering meat and vegetable dishes. Remember to use in moderation and remove the leaves when serving your food.
  6. Dried mixed herbs (Italian blend recommended): stews, pasta sauces and soups will love you for adding a quality mixed herb pinch.
  7. Smoked paprika: adds a delicious smoky flavour to seafood, vegetable and egg dishes.
  8. Dried ground ginger: great in spiced baked sweet treats, curries and soups.
  9. Dried ground cinnamon: most people use cinnamon in sweet dishes, but it’s also used in savoury dishes to add depth of flavour. Use it in breads, desserts, drinks, curries, stews and chillie sauces. Cinnamon can also help with blood glucose management.
  10. Curry powder: usually comprising over 20 herbs, seeds and spices, it can be used in curries, cakes, stuffed mushrooms and sauces.

We’d like to give a special mention to turmeric: this wonderspice is continuously being studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it great for immune support.

Even though it’s handy to have herbs and spices near your cooking area, they should always be stored in a cool, dark place. The heat from a stove top and oven could damage the spices, decreasing their potency. Sunlight has the same effect.

Aim to buy spices that are non-irradiated and plain (pure). Many pre-packaged spices contain sodium, so check then ingredients before you buy. Remember that most dried herbs and spices start losing potency after six months. After then, you’ll need to add more of them to ensure adequate flavour.

Get a taste of good health

Tracy Ugarchund & Associates can guide you with portion sizes, food budget challenges and other tips to help spice up your diet for maximum health benefits. Contact Tracy on 082 657 0700 or via email at tracydiet1@gmail.com. Tracy and her Associates are also available for one-on-one consultations. Visit www.tracyugarchund.co.za to find out more.