• Fernanda Ramos

Herbs and spices: because tasty food is necessary


In a meal flavor is a valuable characteristic and it mainly comes from the herbs and spices used in. They are leaves, roots, barks, grains, seeds and flowers that add or improve desirable sensorial characteristics to food.

The use of these condiments is millennial with records in Ancient Egypt, Sumer and Mesopotamia. The culinary use of spices was especially important in the Middle Ages when, due to their conservative properties on food, the demand for suppliers in Orient was stimulated, raising economy and in part being responsible for maritime expeditions.

Herbs and spices are: parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, dill, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, bay leaf, sage, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cardamom, saffron, ginseng and many others.


Each of these spices and herbs have a more common use, as in meats or vegetables, salads, desserts or infusions, among other possibilities.

Besides the culinary use, these condiments have medical purposes. Hippocrates has used these ingredients in his drug preparations and Louis Pasteur has studied garlic as a bactericide. The use of ginger, for example, is common for gastric distress, especially in nausea and vomiting.

But herbs and spices have, beyond Historical and Cultural relevance, many properties and potential positive effects on human health.

Recently, studies have found promising results in prevention and as adjuvant treatment to chronic diseases such as heart and neurodegenerative diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cancer, as well as inflammation.

Evidence is not strong and more trials are needed, especially due to the interaction of these condiments with other ingredients and foods during the cooking process, in addition to the heat effect, which may change their characteristics and effects.

The reason for these potential benefits is in POLYPHENOLS, abundant in these herbs and spices, especially when dried. Compared to other polyphenol rich foods, in 100g, herbs and spices generally contain relatively high levels of polyphenols. The predominant class are phenolic acids and flavonoids, with anti-inflammatory properties.

It’s clear that the levels of intake are much lower than for foods more widely known for these same protective properties but does not necessarily mean that they are of little values ​​as their high polyphenol content and that the potential biological impact of these bioactive compounds should be ignored.

In an analysis of the Mediterranean diet, considered one of the most protective for chronic diseases, it was observed that herbs and spices are significantly responsible for the high antioxidant content of this food pattern.

It has already been observed that:

Cooking methods alters the antioxidant capacity. When the cooking process involves water or steaming, the antioxidant capacity increases; on the other hand, dry heat, such as grilling, decreases this capacity.

Herbs and spices have potential health benefits but also make food much more tasty. This characteristic consequently encourages a varied diet. Much better than industrialized powders that promise taste but offer salt!

How about trying to include them in the diary life?

Domene SMA. Técnica Dietética: teoria e aplicações. Rio de Janeiro. Guanabara Koogan, 2011. 350p

Opara EI, Chohan M. Culinary Herbs and Spices: Their Bioactive Properties, the Contribution of Polyphenols and the Challenges in Deducing Their True Health Benefits. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2014, 15, 19183-19202.

Bower A, Marquez S, De Mejia EG. The Health Benefits of Selected Culinary Herbs and Spices Found in the Traditional Mediterranean Diet. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2015.

Tapsell LC, Sullivan DR, Cobiac L, Clifton PM, et al. Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future. The Medical journal of Australia. 2016


#polyphenols #spices #herbs #flavor #ginger #health

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