Learn to Choose Healthy: Holiday Spices
Spices are used in the culinary world all year round, of course, and the holidays just ramp up their importance. And though we all know spices are attractive for scent and flavoring, it is a bit surprising to me to find how important they are for health and disease-prevention.
So I personally began this year using spices more often, more of them, and in unlikely places, such as five-spice in a latte, and black pepper on cookies! There are also other spice-like ingredients that deserve a place in your pantry that aren’t spices exactly, but certainly make an important flavorful and healthy contribution.
So I have created a list of essential holiday spices and the like that I think you should have in stock at all times. I have also tried to supply vetted buying sources for high-quality versions that are pure and free of additives. Let me know what you think in comments!
The List of Spices
- Anise Star
- Chinese Five-Spice
All About the Spices
- Anise Star
- A spice close in taste to licorice and actually bears a close resemblance to the spice fennel. Anise can be used as a whole star seed, or ground into powder. It is a strong antioxidant. Anise has anti fungal and anti-candida properties as well. Here is a fair trade brand.
- This spice is often confused as a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, but it is actually a spice on its own from a berry of a pimento tree of Jamaica. This fragrant spice is high in vitamin C.
- Used as a ground powder or whole seeds, this spice delivers a haunting dusty sweet flavor that enhances recipes with chocolate and cinnamon, and is also a strong antiseptic and powerful immune booster
- This familiar spice has a sweet scent, great for both sweet and savory recipes, and excellent at balancing blood sugars. I actually add 2 tsp daily to my morning coffee.
- With a flavor both sweet and bitter, like cinnamon, this spice is great in both sweet and savory recipes. Healthy wise, this spice is high in antioxidants and great for digestion and anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal power.
- Chinese Five-Spice
- This spice is actually a collection of anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, sichuan pepper and fennel. Normally found in savory Asian recipes, recently this spice is being used to add spicy heat to holiday dessert recipes. I use this brand.
- Ginger is both an herb and a spice, and has so many well-known healthy benefits – including detox and digestion support. Use it fresh or powdered.
- Earthy, nutty and with a hint of sweetness, this spice is so high in minerals, including magnesium, potassium and zinc. It makes a great home remedy for relaxation and sleep.
Essential Additional Spicing
And these next are not spices of course, but they are essential additions to many holiday recipes:
- Black strap molasses is a healthy sweetener, with vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium. The flavor is a wonderful pairing with cinnamon and gingerbread recipes. I use this brand.
- This cool familiar flavoring can be used as an extract or oil. It adds a minty and sweet flavor and provides excellent support for colds and throat ailments. The essential oil is best with recipes that have healthy fats, but be careful to keep it out of reach of children. I use this brand.
- Recently I am finding a fine quality powder is most convenient and flavorful, with the exception of course of freshly scrapped vanilla pods. The powder I use is made from ground vanilla beans from Madagascar, free of additives and major food allergens. You can find the brand here.)
Homemade Gingerbread & Chai Spice Mix
- 1/4 cup cinnamon
- 1/4 cup ginger
- 2 tbsp allspice
- 2 tbsp nutmeg
- 2 tbsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp black pepper