How to spice things up in the kitchen

Study finds half of Midwesterners open to using more spices

Do you have a spice rack full of options, but tend to use only one or two?

Nutritionist and Savorfull CEO Stacy Goldberg understands why.

"I do see where people can be very overwhelmed, because there's so many different spices on the market,"  Goldberg said..

But variety really is the spice of life.

"We're seeing so much food innovation with making our food flavorful and taste good through spices and herbs," Goldberg said.  "When you incorporate spices into your life through food, you can really cut back on the use of salt and the use of fats."

A recent study by Ball State University looked at Midwest attitudes toward spices. Researchers found half of those surveyed are open to using more ethnic spices and are interested in the potential health benefits of doing so.

"Different spices can have different health benefits," Goldberg said. "They have antioxidant effects to help prevent diseases such as cancers. They have antimicrobial activity, so we can inhibit bacterial growth. They have anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce inflammation, especially for people who are athletes or have arthritis."

The study found most adults in the Midwest already use black pepper and garlic the most. Garlic contains a heart-healthy compound and may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells.  It's easy to toss into a sauce, stir-fry or add to other main dishes.

If sweets are your downfall, Goldberg says consider trying cinnamon or ginger.

"If you're trying to get off sugar, I think cinnamon and ginger are two of the best that you can incorporate into your diet because they naturally sweeten your food," Goldberg said.

Cinnamon has multiple benefits, including blood sugar benefits. Ginger can aid in digestion.

"Maybe you start by just getting used to the taste of ginger in a bar that's infused with ginger, just to kind of get used to it," suggested Goldberg.

The spice turmeric is trendy right now. It can help ease inflammation and may reduce the risk of heart attacks and dementia. It goes well in soups, stews and curry dishes.

"You can add it to something like your eggs to give it a little bit of flavor," suggested Goldberg.

Cumin is also a key ingredient in many Indian dishes.  It's rich in iron and may aid in weight loss.

Finally, consider cardamom. A sweet, pungent spice, it soothes an upset stomach, fights inflammation and may help lower blood pressure. It works well in bread, sweets and savory dishes.

No matter what spice you try, Goldberg says be cautious about using spice mixes.

"You see things like '21 seasoning blend' or 'lemon pepper blend,' and you think it's maybe just, you know, those two ingredients, but it's not, and it can end up having a lot more sodium than you think it does," Goldberg said.

Mixes may also contain sugar, starches or MSG. Instead, buy single spices and make your own custom blends.

Goldberg recommends picking a spice a week and looking up new recipes on Pinterest to see how you can use it in ways your family might like.

Realize at first that less may be more. Some of these flavors are very strong and take a bit of getting used to.

Finally, don't rely on spices alone to solve health problems.

"There are different components that may help and do have health benefits, but they are all in conjunction with having a healthy, well-balanced diet," Goldberg said.