Way before maca, cacao, and goji berries hit the mainstream, spices were the original superfoods. No shade intended toward the newest generation of health-boosters—we’re all about antioxidant-loaded treats like banana-chocolate chia pudding! But can we just take a moment to recognize how powerful some of the most-loved spices in our pantry are?
Fiery cayenne and freshly ground black pepper boost metabolism and help the body break down fat cells. Golden turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that give Advil a run for its money, and coppery paprika is full of vitamins A and E that support cell growth and fight free-radical damage. And in irony of ironies, cinnamon, which is so often found in sugary-sweet desserts and pastries, effectively lowers blood sugar.
Missing any of the above? It might be time to upgrade your spice rack. You might want to replace any that’ve been chilling in your pantry for more than a year, as spices slowly lose their potency over time, even if they don’t technically spoil. Keep track of how then they’ve been open, and definitely toss anything that’s been living with you for more than three years. Then, it’s time to get cooking—and you don’t need to wait until dinner. Here’s how to amp up the flavor (and the health factor) of breakfast favorites with a dash of ginger powder, a pinch of cayenne, and every spice in between.
So many icy drink variations, so little time. Whipping up a superfood smoothie full of fruits, veggies, and protein is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. Here’s how to kick yours up a notch with spices.
- Take a cue from this peach-turmeric smoothie and add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to the mix. It has an earthy taste, so the anti-inflammatory spice pairs well with bright and sweet flavors like citrus or berry.
- In recipes with more fruit or natural sweeteners like honey, a scoop of cinnamon not only makes the flavors pop, but also helps prevent a spike in blood sugar levels—and the subsequent crash. Bonus: it also helps decrease bad cholesterol.
- Fresh ginger has a tendency to overwhelm other flavors. Powdered ginger has all the same health benefits—it’s a common anti-nausea aid and has also been studied for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects—without the biting flavor. Add at least a teaspoon to your drink to start reaping the rewards.
Level up avocado toast
It’s been a minute since avo toast first graced flooded our Instagram feeds, but the fast and healthy breakfast (or snack!) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Sure, the basic recipe tastes perfectly good—it’s hard to argue with a ripe avocado spread over crunchy bread. But by adding just a few spices, you can put together a restaurant-worthy plate in just a few minutes.
- A teaspoon of paprika and a little sea salt sprinkled on top make a subtly spicy, savory combo. Plus, it’s that happens to be great for your skin. Paprika is loaded with vitamin A, or retinol, which increases cell production and is used to treat almost every skin problem including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, and sunburn. Paired with hydrating fats in avocado, this toast combo will bring on the glow.
- Mix in cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder for a smoky guacamole-style mash. Cumin shows up in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mexican cuisines, and was traditionally used as a substitute for expensive black pepper. Go nuts and throw this one into breakfast, lunch, and dinners—cumin has immunoprotective qualities so powerful that it’s even been found to shield the liver from dangerous toxins.
- Still a little wary of eating healthy fats? Sprinkling a little freshly ground black peppercorn over your toast may help block the formation of new fat cells. Maybe we’ve found our newest (and strangest) ice cream topping?
Bring the heat to scrambles
When it comes to scrambled eggs, salt and pepper is a no-brainer. But get a little creative with your power breakfast and you might find the rest of your day is a little more exciting.
- Sprinkle in Italian seasoning. The pre-mixed combo of oregano, basil, marjoram, sage, and garlic makes it way easier to add Mediterranean flair to any dish—eggs included! Make this a little more culinary by cooking the eggs in tomato sauce like shakshuka and serve with some crunchy ciabatta toast.
- Can’t forget the cayenne! This red-hot powder delivers just enough heat to make otherwise plain scrambled eggs a main event.
Photo credit: Ella Ciamacco