Written by: Claudia Haller NBC-HWC
When you close your eyes and think of the holidays, what do you smell? What do you taste? The festive season brings an array of delightful tastes and aromas, many of which originate from spices that have been cherished and utilized for centuries. Beyond adding flavor to our favorite holiday dishes, many of these spices also boast a plethora of health benefits. A couple of them have anti-inflammatory properties, others are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and some can even alleviate bloating and gas (which is something many of us struggle with at this time of year).
Here are some of my favorite seasonal spices, their benefits, and tips for how to include them in your diet:
Cinnamon, with its sweet and woody notes, has become a staple in holiday traditions and recipes all around the world. Often sprinkled atop lattes or baked into your favorite holiday treats, this spice is a fan favorite. Did you know that cinnamon has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties? This spice is also known to reduce blood sugar levels, which is another welcome benefit.
Tip: Swap sugar with a sprinkle of cinnamon in your morning coffee for a festive and healthier twist.
This warm spice, often grated fresh, is an ingredient in many holiday desserts and beverages. Beyond its distinctive flavor, nutmeg can benefit digestion and even possesses antibacterial properties to help fight off cavity-causing bacteria. This spice also contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which can protect your body from various health conditions.
Tip: A pinch in your eggnog or sprinkled on roasted vegetables can bring both flavor and health benefits to the table.
Long-lasting traditions such as gingerbread houses, ginger snaps, and ginger-spiced beverages, highlight this healthy root during the holiday season. Ginger doesn't just make for delightful baked goods but is renowned for its medicinal properties. It's an effective remedy for nausea and boasts potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In addition, ginger can help speed up your digestion, improve immunity, and may even alleviate menstrual pain during women’s cycles.
Tip: For a morning wellness boost, try ginger tea sweetened with a touch of honey or a few drops of lemon juice if you’re feeling brave.
This golden-hued spice has gained global recognition for its health benefits. While it's not traditionally a Western holiday spice, its warm, earthy flavor can be a unique addition to holiday dishes. Curcumin, its active ingredient, is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, providing plenty of benefits to your system.
Tip: Try adding a pinch to your hot cocoa or even in your holiday soups. You might just be pleasantly surprised.
These aromatic flower buds are frequently used in sweet and savory holiday dishes. Before they became a staple ingredient, cloves carried symbolic importance in various ancient cultures during the holiday season. Cloves are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and have also been known to provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Tip: Add whole cloves to your holiday ham, or include them in your mulled cider for a flavorful, healthful infusion.
Despite its name, allspice is not a blend of spices but a spice in its own right. Its flavor resembles a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and it is rich in minerals such as manganese, iron, and copper. It's also believed that allspice has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Not only does its taste reflect a blend of three spices, but its health effects resemble a mix of the best benefits from each one.
Tip: Allspice is wonderful in stews, pies, and even some meat preparations. A little goes a long way, so use this spice sparingly.
Cardamom has exotic and citrusy notes, bringing an unexpected flavor to holiday recipes. Native to the Indian subcontinent, this spice found its way into Western holiday cuisine and is used as a twist in many of today's seasonal dishes. Cardamom is packed with antioxidants and possesses anti-inflammatory effects. This spice may even lower blood pressure and blood sugar, which makes it a no-brainer to add to your diet during the holiday season.
Tip: Sprinkle some ground cardamom into your coffee or atop your oatmeal to infuse it into your morning routine. You can also add cardamom into your baked goods or even savory dishes as it pairs very well with rice.
This star-shaped spice is visually appealing and packs a health punch. It's rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and is traditionally used to treat coughs and flu symptoms. In addition, star anise can provide aid to your digestive and immune systems, keeping you happy and healthy all season long.
Tip: Star anise can be a delightful addition to homemade chai tea or poached fruits.
While more of a behind-the-scenes spice, fennel seeds can alleviate bloating and gas—something many of us experience during indulgent holiday feasts. The benefits appeal to all, but the taste might not appeal to as many. That being said, for those who like fennel seeds, its sweet licorice flavor can be a delightful end to a meal.
Tip: Chew on a few seeds post-dinner, or brew a simple fennel tea.
The holiday season is about more than indulgence; it's an opportunity to embrace the health benefits of the spices that define this time of year. The next time you're whipping up a holiday meal or sipping on a festive drink, take a moment to savor the unique flavors and wellness benefits these spices bring to your table. May your season be filled with warmth, joy, and the delightful aroma of spices that make this time of year so special.
One of the best ways to enjoy these healthy holiday spices is in your own cozy crafted teas at home. Check out our blog from the Fall with 5 drinks that allow you to sip and savor the season:
Cinnamon has been around for centuries, and countless studies discuss its historical significance and health benefits. If you’re interested in learning more about this timeless spice, check out one of the many academic journals here:
Claudia is an NBC-HWC Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, the owner of Vibrant Health by Claudia LLC and Virtual Health Coaches LLC. She studied health and wellness coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she also completed courses in Gut Health, Hormone Health, and Advanced Coaching. She is a Havening TechniquesⓇ Certified Practitioner and certified 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach as well as a co-author of two Amazon Bestsellers “The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Soul Aligned Business” and “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Successful Soul Professional”.
To schedule a time for a free information call click here or join her Vibrant Health Power Community - a free Facebook Group - here.
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