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June 08, 2010

Herbs & Spices for Health

Herbs and spices have been used to enhance the flavor of food for years but now research studies are confirming that they offer important health benefits too. Most recently herbs and spices are being used for decreasing cancer causing compound levels in grilled meats. Light the grill and try these great herb and spice rich recipes.

According to J. Scott Smith, a Kansas State University food chemistry professor, adding spices to meat could lead to certain health benefits. He has been conducting research on carcinogenic compounds called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) to determine ways to reduce them in meat products, especially those that are grilled. Consuming HCAs through meat increases risk factors for colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, mammary and prostate cancers.

ScienceDaily (May 2010) reports that Smith’s research found certain spices containing natural antioxidants would reduce HCA levels by 40 percent when applied to beef patties during cooking. Cooked beef tends to develop more HCAs than other kinds of cooked meats such as pork and chicken," Smith said.

The research indicated that rosemary, turmeric and fingerroot had the highest levels of antioxidant activity toward inhibiting the formation of HCAs, with rosemary as the most effective.

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Rosemary is an evergreen bush in the mint family. It resembles pine needles and has a very pungent smell and flavor, like that of pine. It is one of my favorite herbs, giving wonderful flavor to stews, meats and vegetables. Learning that it has great health benefits is an added bonus.

Rosemary goes well with other herbs especially sage; try Roasted Rosemary and Sage Chicken and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes. The next time you are planning to grill beef burgers, try my recipe for Grilled Rosemary & Sage stuffed Burgers with Portabella Mushrooms

The use rosemary for cooking, pull the needles backwards to release them from the stem. Finely chop the needles and use in your favorite stews and sauces. Rosemary is also delicious made into pesto. See my Five Herb Pesto Sauce. The branches can be stripped of their needles and used as skewer sticks; great for potatoes and meat. Soak the sticks prior to grilling in water for 3-4 hours.

To start your own rosemary bush, take a cutting from a stem producing new growth and plant it in soil with good drainage and full sun. During the rooting time, keep it well watered. Read more about rosemary under the ingredients section of my website.

Turmeric is cultivated from the root of a perennial plant in the ginger family. It has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor and a mild fragrance that will remind you of orange and ginger. It is a common ingredient in curry, but is best known for the yellow color it gives mustard. Try my Eggplant Curry recipe.

As with all spices, turmeric powder should kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place and fresh turmeric roots should be kept in the refrigerator. Use the spice sparingly to avoid over coloring your recipe bright yellow.

According to a research study reported in the August 2006 issue of Clinical Gasteroenterology and Hepatology, a phytonutrient found in the curry spice turmeric, and quercitin, an antioxidant in onions, reduce both the size and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract. In your grilling plans for this summer include my version of Beef Burgers with Turmeric Raisins and Onions.

Posted by terri at June 8, 2010 03:01 AM