7 Spices Loaded with Serious Flavor—And Incredible Health Benefits

November 9, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
7 Spices Loaded with Serious Flavor—And Incredible Health Benefits

Cayenne pepper really hit its prime in the early aughts. When Giselle Bundchen credited cayenne with helping maintain her slim, Victoria's Secret-worthy figure, the spice was suddenly stylish.

It's almost too easy—just a pinch of some magic powder and suddenly you're a fat-burning machine? Well maybe not a machine, but fiery cayenne does seem to have an effect on increasing the metabolism. It's well documented that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that give Advil a run for its money, and cinnamon is coveted amongst those with metabolic disorders thanks to its blood sugar-lowering effect.

The rest of your spice rack isn't to be overlooked—there are some superfood seasonings hidden in the pantry that are worthy of a little more love. Put down the salt and start cooking with these spices—your blood pressure, waistline, and tastebuds will thank you.


Sweet, spicy, smoky—paprika comes in tons of different flavors and varieties, but it's always a vibrant brick red. Thanks to its plenitude of antioxidants that impart its quintessential color, paprika is also full of vitamins A and E. Together, they fight free radical damage in the body, but vitamin A also promotes cell growth and recovery, which supports anti-aging.


With its distinct taste and smell, fennel is often loved or loathed. If you fall into the latter category, this classic Italian seasoning is worth your adoration—full of phytonutrients, fennel has been proven to have anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. A special phytonutrient called anethole found in fennel has been linked to slowing the growth of cancer cells and apoptosis, or cell death, in breast cancer cells. Additionally, fennel's antioxidants can help reverse damage to liver cells... So after a really rough night out, look to this spice to help heal your hangover.


Especially popular in some of the most beloved holiday foods—gingerbread, hot toddies, and pumpkin pie, to name a few—cloves are a warming and aromatic addition to any dish. Along with their lovely flavor, cloves impart another interesting element to dishes: eugenol. A compound found specifically in clove oil, eugenol is incredibly effective at protecting the body from external toxins found in the environment, like carbon tetrachloride. It's also a potent natural pesticide, so mixing a little clove oil into your lotion can ward off annoying mosquitos and bugs.

Bay Leaves

You don't really realize how important bay leaves are to Grandma's chicken noodle soup, your favorite bolognese sauce, or classic cooked beans until you accidentally forget to throw one into the mix. When you do overlook these dried leaves, it's clear that something is missing. Although the pungent, almost bittersweet flavor of bay leaves isn't necessarily appetizing on its own, when added into dishes and left to simmer, they impart a little extra depth and dimension. Plus, as it turns out, these leaves also bring some pharmacological properties to the table.

Even dried, bay leaves help the digestive system function properly, acting as a diuretic and eliminating toxins. They also contain a plethora of B-vitamins that support the nervous system to increase energy and amp up the metabolic rate.


Whether fresh or dried, thyme deserves a permanent place in your pantry, especially during the fall and winter months. The woody and aromatic herb has been used for centuries in aromatherapy to treat illness, but it's proven over time to be a powerful antimicrobial treatment. In fact, thyme actually encourages a healthy immune system by increasing white blood cell formation. Next time you feel a chill coming on, throw some thyme into almost any savory dish to reap the immune-boosting benefits of this spice.

Black pepper

Try not to roll your eyes. Black pepper—no duh! Of course you already know about this spice. But before you skim to the next incredible ingredient, reconsider black pepper for its fat-burning powers. Yep, you read that right. That freshly ground black pepper you've been declining at restaurants for years can actually help your body break down fat cells. Plus, pepper raises core body temperature, forcing the body to eliminate toxins via sweat.


Too often, nutmeg is relegated to holiday treats (what's up, eggnog), but there are plenty of reasons to throw nutmeg into your cooking all year round. Nutmeg has long been used as a home remedy for insomnia—and there's actually something to this old wives tale.

This spice has a high magnesium content, which has been proven to help those who suffer through restless nights fall asleep and relax far more easily than normally. The powerful antioxidants myristicin and elemicin found in nutmeg fight inflammation and pain, and some researchers believe actually slow down the deterioration of neural pathways in the brain. Slow down aging and maintain memory for a long time? Sounds like it's time to start adding nutmeg to every morning cup of joe.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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This article is related to: Cinnamon, Herbs, Nutrition, Spices, Thyme, Pepper

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4 thoughts on “7 Spices Loaded with Serious Flavor—And Incredible Health Benefits”

  • roy

    Hi, I do not see why India is not credited with the use of these spices? All the spices mentioned above are used every day in Indian kitchens, though you are mentioning some certified coaches the truth is all this knowledge about the use of spices comes from India including the idea of vegetarianism and vegan.. as I have seen the patents for garlic, turmeric.. are held by the USA and Europeans hold the patents for indian dishes like dosa (which are prepared from thousands of years) and they call it some creepy word like 'crepes' ... wonder why the world is not acknowledging Indian knowledge but rather just taking it and copyrighting everything with new names... The main point is to authenticate the source of the knowledge and give credit to that rather than someone who has copied such ideas...

  • Mitch22

    Good article.. Cayenne can stop a heart attack in a couple of minutes... I know, as it stopped mine... I knew about cayenne's benefits from a previous deep finger cut when I had massive chest pain. I called 911, dropped some cayenne in hot water, and waited for 3 minutes for them to get to my house... In the Ambulance, the EKG confirmed I was having a heart attack, but the EKG by the time I got to the ER room showed no problem... They did blood tests, and didn't find anything wrong with my heart at all...

  • Erica Waddell

    Technically, every real spice / plant-based seasoning we eat is due to the bioavailability and necessity its health effects. Tastiness and flavor prior to modern chemical engineering and over-sweetening of foods is the strongest correlation to healthiness and nutrition of the food for humans and for all living things. Somehow in the last 60 years, we've deferred to labels to find nutrition and forgotten that our ancestors got us here without them. But even before that, we focused so much on cultural identity around food rather than questioning the reason for combinations of flavors. And we tend to forget that nutritional need isn't a matter of culture but personal need.

  • Gail Gardner

    For people who are insecure about how much of which spice to use when cooking, combinations are a great solution. I use a lot of organic "Italian seasoning" which typically contains bay leaves, oregano, basil, thyme and other spices. I buy a pound at a time, but Thrive Market carries this typical bottle size https://thrivemarket.com/simply-organic-italian-seasoning

    I recently started using curry powder, which is another combination of spices which varies by manufacturer. Thrive Market carries this as well https://thrivemarket.com/simply-organic-curry-powder

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