Super Seasonings That Deserve a Spot in Your Spice Rack

Sometimes all a recipe needs is a little salt and pepper—but if you’re looking to kick things up a notch, you may want to sprinkle some herbs into your dish. Great flavor isn’t the only benefit you’ll enjoy! Herbs can also boost your health in a variety of ways. That’s because herbs are super low in calories and sodium, and rich in good-for-you nutrients—a winning trifecta when it comes to eating well.

Check out these superstar seasonings and how to use them in your favorite dishes.

Healthy Herb: Basil


Basil:  promotes beautiful, radiant skin

Basil, which is used frequently in Italian recipes, comes in more than 10 varieties, from Thai basil to sweet basil. The herb has potent anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been shown to improve skin blemishes (hello, gorgeous!). To keep your basil nice and fresh, trim the stems, stick the bunch in a tall glass of water, place a plastic bag over the leaves and keep it on your kitchen counter. The bag traps moisture but allows the gas to escape, leaving you with fresh and tasty basil for a few extra days. When cooking with fresh basil, it’s best to add it at the end of cooking so it doesn’t lose its vibrant green color and delicious flavor.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy basil is in this delicious Pesto Salmon dish.

Healthy Herb: Cilantro


Cilantro: Bursting with phytochemicals

Cilantro is a polarizing herb—you either love it or hate it. I’m a fan, but two of my three kids can’t stand it. Research done by Charles J. Wysocki suggests that certain individuals actually have a predisposition to dislike the flavor. If you’re a cilantro supporter, then consider yourself lucky, because the herb is loaded with phytochemicals, including limonene, camphor, and quercetin, which protect against disease and also help fight aging.

If you’re up for the challenge, you may be able to re-train your brain to like the herb through repeated exposure.

Most commonly found in Mexican and Asian cuisines, cilantro is one of the star ingredients in my delicious Cilantro Sour Cream.

Healthy Herb: Dill


Dill: helps protect your eyes

With its distinct fragrance, dill provides a tangy addition to your favorite recipes. The tasty herb contains an abundance of beta-carotene to promote sharp vision and beautiful skin. Rumor has it that dill may also cure the hiccups. Chewing on and swallowing dill seeds is supposed to stimulate the vagus nerve and put a stop to annoying hiccups. (While I couldn’t find any scientific evidence to back this up, it certainly can’t hurt to try it out!) You could also prepare a cup of tea using dried dill leaves, and sip slowly instead.

It can be used dried or fresh in a number of dishes, including these Ricotta-Dill Salmon Patties.

Healthy Herb: Mint


Mint: eases aches and pains

Forget about swallowing a pill to soothe pain. Ancient Greeks and Romans relied on a more natural way to ease suffering: Mint! Studies show the herb (in both ointment and tea form) can help alleviate a variety of aches.

Today, the herb is most commonly used to freshen breath—in the form of chewing gum and mouthwash. And check out these belly benefits: Mint has been shown to aid in digestion, and for those suffering from irritable bowel disease and other digestive disorders, mint oil can help relax the muscular lining of the digestive tract, which may relieve cramps and bloating.

I love chopping mint into diced pineapple for a simple dessert, or topping a refreshing mojito with a sprig or two. Or you can try my Minty Grapefruit dessert.

Healthy Herb: Oregano


Oregano: benefits bone health

Oregano is one of the most widely used seasonings, and it definitely deserves a spot on your spice rack. The herb is a rich source of Vitamin K, an essential nutrient when it comes to blood clotting and bone health. Plus, research suggests that by consuming oregano on a regular basis, you can effectively reduce high cholesterol and lower your risk of colon cancer—double bonus!

I like to use dried oregano on everything from pasta to roasted vegetables to homemade pizza.

Healthy Herb: Parsley


Parsley: enhances immunity

Parsley has been providing a punch of flavor to dishes for more than 2,000 years, but great flavor isn’t the only perk. Proving it’s more than just a garnish to pretty up your plate, parsley is also believed to help boost immunity. And here’s the best news—did you know that parsley is also a natural breath freshener? Bye bye, garlic breath!

Parsley pairs well with fish, salads, dips, and stews. Give it a shot in this yummy pasta recipe.

Healthy Herb: Rosemary


Rosemary: helps boost brain power

Fragrant rosemary contains antioxidants that can help increase immunity and improve circulation. A study from the United Kingdom showed that the herb may help boost brain power. Researchers found that high blood levels of rosemary oil correlated with improved cognitive performance.

Eat your way to an “A” with this easy, yet totally delish Rosemary Chicken recipe. Or follow my lead and try simply roasting vegetables with a few sprigs.

Healthy Herb: Sage


Sage: helps sharpen memory

For years, sage has been used for its stellar health benefits. In fact, sage was one of the ingredients in Four Thieves Vinegar, a mixture of vinegar and herbs once thought to prevent the plague. (If you rubbed it on your hands, ears and temples, it was supposed to naturally repel fleas, which spread the disease.)

Packed with antioxidants, sage has been shown to improve memory and prevent inflammation. Plus, research shows it may help reduce cholesterol levels. In one small study, six healthy women drank about 2½ cups of sage tea daily for two weeks. At the end of the study, women lowered their total cholesterol by 16 percent. They also reduced their bad cholesterol and slightly increased their good cholesterol.

Embrace the sweet, yet savory flavor of sage in this delicious pasta dish.

Healthy Herb: Tarragon


Tarragon: helps preserve a healthy blood flow

Tarragon dates back to ancient Greece, where it was used to alleviate toothaches. Chewing the leaves releases an oil called eugenol, which helps numb pain. Rich in vitamins A and C, as well as several important minerals, studies have shown that tarragon may prevent against the build up of platelets that form blood clots and reduce the risk for stroke.

Tarragon is excellent when paired with seafood, fruits, poultry, eggs, and most vegetables, and its intense flavor provides a hint of mild vanilla.

Healthy Herb: Thyme


Thyme: helps freshen breath

With its unique appearance and strong fragrance, thyme is available year-round, in both fresh and dried varieties. This lemony herb contains high amounts of thymol, one of the main ingredients found in mouthwash. No wonder it’s a common herbal remedy for bad breath.

It contains volatile oils that boast antimicrobial properties; it may may help protect against harmful Staph and E.coli bacteria. Studies have also suggested that thyme’s essential oils might also help fight acne, yeast infections and more.

Be sure to incorporate this fragrant herb into everything from roasted salmon to chicken noodle soup to homemade turkey meatballs.