Any home chef worth their salt knows spices can make a dish sing. But there’s another reason to shake ’em on: a host of health benefits. People often forget, but spices come from plants—the seeds, fruits, roots, or even bark—and are similarly high in antioxidants.
“Spices are some of the richest sources of antioxidants in our diet,” says Melina Jampolis, M.D., a board-certified physician and author of Spice Up, Slim Down. “They’re also a rich source of nutrients called polyphenols, which actually work on the cellular and even genetic level in many cases to promote health and prevent disease.” That could explain why a recent USDA report found that, as a nation, our spice use has more than tripled in the past 50 years.
Research has found that many seasonings have specific benefits, but they’re no substitute for a healthy lifestyle. “You cannot ‘outspice’ an unhealthy diet,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., owner of BZ Nutrition. “Spices will give your health a boost, but they can’t undo the damage caused by poor eating habits.” But if you’re already starting with a balanced diet, working more spices into your regular kitchen repertoire can be a good idea. We asked experts for their picks: