5 Essential Spices Everyone Should Stock

by Laura Guzik-Cohn


5 Essential Spices Everyone Should Stock

by Laura Guzik-Cohn

There is a world beyond salt and pepper. A world full of spices. A world where flavor and health meet to create deliciousness that is just as good for you as it tastes. But where to begin? Don’t know your ginger spice from your Ginger Spice? We’re here to help. Here’s a few of the healthiest spices to stock in your kitchen.


Turmeric is used in India to help wounds heal (it’s applied as a paste); it’s also made into a tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. Modern medicine confirms some solid-gold health benefits as well; most are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is rich in vitamins C, B3 and B6, and also magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, zinc and omega-6 fatty acids. Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures.

One of the best uses for turmeric is adding it to bone broth or soup, especially a chicken base. It gives it a gorgeous, golden color and adds an earthy flavor.

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People often confuse coriander with cilantro, because they come from the same plant, but there’s a big difference. Cilantro, an herb, comes from the strongly scented leaves of the coriander plant. And while it is tasty, it’s not nearly as healthful as the spice coriander, which comes from the plant’s sweet, nutty seeds. Two of the volatile oils contained in coriander seed – linalool and geranyl acetate – are powerful, cell-protecting antioxidants. They’re probably behind many of coriander’s curative powers, including its ability to soothe digestive ailments.


Ginger has a well-deserved reputation for relieving an unsettled stomach. Studies show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery or chemotherapy, though it’s less effective for motion sickness. But ginger is also packed with inflammation-fighting compounds which some experts believe may hold promise in fighting some cancers, and may reduce the aches of osteoarthritis and soothe sore muscles. In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed exercises designed to strain their muscles compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules.

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The culinary merit of nutmeg alone is enough to earn it a spot on this list. The taste and scent of nutmeg is warm, aromatic, and nutty, and the spice goes well with sweet and spicy drinks and dishes. It is also added to many processed foods to enhance flavor, and can be found in many recipes for soups, sauces, casseroles, curries, and pasta dishes. Nutmeg is also a staple in cocktails, ciders, mulled wines, and eggnog.
Culinary achievements aside, nutmeg is among the strongest antioxidants and is an effective antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compound. This spice has also been found to inhibit blood clotting and to decrease prostaglandin levels in the colon, making it useful in the management of colon diseases. So, mull that wine and sip that cider, responsibly of course.

Chili Pepper

Chili peppers add a much-appreciated heat to any dish, but they can also help boost your metabolism. Thank capsaicin, the compound that gives fresh chilies and spices, including cayenne and chipotle, their kick. Studies show that capsaicin can increase the body’s metabolic rate (causing one to burn more calories) and may stimulate brain chemicals that help us feel less hungry. Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chili hybrids, have the same effects—so even the other red spice, sweet paprika, packs a healthy punch. Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria. They also promote heart health by helping keep “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form.

These spices are just a jumping off point, so don’t be afraid to stock your kitchen full of flavors from around the world. Replace them every few months because just like medications, spices can go bad. Even rancid. Store them with care and use liberally.

Posted on September 27, 2017

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Laura Guzik-Cohn

A health and wellness enthusiast, Laura likes to spend her spare time playing with puppies and running through fields of wildflowers.