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Herbs, Spices: Not Only Delicious, but Healthy!

Herbs and spices, whether fresh or dried, add great flavors to our recipes.

But did you know many have scientifically proven health benefits, as well?

On "The Early Show," registered dietician Ellie Krieger, author of "So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week," ((see excerpt), pointed to some of her favorite and healthiest fall herbs and spices, and told how you can easily incorporate them in your recipes.

She noted that many spices are rich in anti-oxidants and act as anti-inflammatory and antiviral agents.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!


Dried herbs and spices can lose potency when sitting on a shelf. You should buy the smallest container, unless you are cooking up a huge feast. You really shouldn't keep a bottled spice or herb longer than six months. You will want to keep these in an airtight container away from light and heat, and check to make sure they remain green and their aroma is strong upon crushing.

There are some studies indicating herbs and spices lose some of their antioxidant power in processing, but Krieger believes the studies are inconclusive, and that both dried and fresh will provide you similar health benefits. But make sure not to keep them around for long!

When thinking about substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs, keep in mind that, because of their more intense, concentrated flavor, dried herbs can be substituted for fresh herbs at a ratio of 1-to-3.


Rosemary contains antioxidants -- carnosol, one of its strongest, may play a preventive role in cancer and cholesterol oxidation. The fresh leaves have a strong pine smell and have a lemony pine flavor.

When preparing soups or other long-cooking dishes, dried rosemary works fine. As with most herbs, two teaspoons of fresh rosemary will provide the equivalent flavor of one teaspoon of dried rosemary.

Plenty of cosmetics and soaps contain rosemary because of its anti-aging properties. Basically, rosemary is often thought to rejuvenate the skin by strengthening the blood capillaries just below the surface of the skin.

And some studies, like one conducted at the Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, indicate rosemary's antioxidants have been proven to protect cells from carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Rosemary was found to block the conversion of normal cells into cancer cells in rat mammary tissue in another study done at Pennsylvania State's College of Health and Human Development, University Park, Pa. For two weeks, the researchers fed laboratory rats a diet supplemented with 1 percent rosemary powder -- the same you buy in the spice section of the store. Then they treated the rats with DMBA. The binding of carcinogens to cells is one of the first steps in tumor formation, and the rosemary diet was found to reduce by 76 percent the number of instances that DMBA bound to the mammary cells, compared to rats fed a control diet.


Tuscan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

From "The Food You Crave: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

6 Roma tomatoes (about 1 pound)
3 medium zucchini (about 1/2 pound each)
1 bulb fennel
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoons salt
4 bone-in chicken breast halves (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin removed
4 cloves garlic, finely minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise into quarters and remove the seeds. Trim the zucchini and cut it in half crosswise. Then cut each piece in half lengthwise twice if the piece is thin and three times if it is thicker, so that the pieces are relatively uniform.

Remove the outermost layer of the fennel bulb and discard. Cut the bulb in half so that each half retains part of the stem end. Cut each half into 8 thin wedges so each wedge is held together by a little piece of stem.

Put the vegetables in a large baking dish. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan with the vegetables.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, the garlic, and lemon zest and juice. Rub the mixture into the chicken in the pan. Season with a few turns of pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, then give the vegetables a stir and add the rosemary. Return to the oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked all the way through and the vegetable are tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes more.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 piece of chicken and 1 1/2 cups vegetables

Per Serving:
Calories 410; Total fat 13.5g (Sat fat 2g, Mono fat 8.2g, Poly fat 2g); Protein 56g; Carb 15g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 132mg; Sodium 637mg


Oranges in Rosemary Honey with Toasted Almonds

Adapted from "So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

3 tablespoons whole natural almonds
1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary, plus more sprigs for garnish
4 navel oranges

Place the almonds in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and light brown, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool, then roughly chop.

Place the honey, lemon juice, and 1 rosemary sprig in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the rosemary steep for 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour, then remove the rosemary sprig.

Slice off the tops and bottoms of the oranges, then slice down the sides of the oranges, removing the skin and the white pith. Slice each orange into 4 or 5 rings and place into a bowl or on a serving plate. Stir the juice that accumulated from cutting the oranges into the honey-lemon mixture.

To serve, drizzle the orange slices with the honey-lemon mixture. Top with the almonds and garnish with additional rosemary sprigs.

Makes 4 servings

Per Serving:
Calories 180; Total Fat 4 g (Sat Fat 0 g, Mono Fat 3 g, Poly Fat 0.5 g); Protein 2 g; Carb 36 g; Fiber 4 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 0 mg


Of all of our spices, Cinnamon is THE highest in antioxidant power. And the antioxidants in Cinnamon have been linked to lower inflammation, as well as a reduction in blood glucose concentrations in people with diabetes, according to It's also a good source of manganese, iron and calcium. It has also been shown to tame nausea and stomach ulcers, and increases insulin sensitivity to help focus fat burn. A great ingredient in anything to use from savory to sweet, it's versatile in all sorts of fall foods.


Apple Brown Betty

From "So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every meal of the Week"

5 large Golden Delicious apples (about 2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 slices whole-wheat bread (1 ounce each; crusts included), or enough to make about 2 ¼ cups crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Combine the apples, apple cider, 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, the vanilla, and ½ teaspoon of the cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but still retain their shape, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter until melted, remove from the heat and transfer the apple mixture to a 9-inch pie plate or a ceramic dish.

Place the bread in the food processor and process until crumbs are formed, about 15 seconds. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave for 20 seconds. Toss the crumbs with remaining melted butter, walnuts, remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Scatter the crumb mixture on top of the apples and bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is crisped and lightly browned.

Makes 6 servings
Serving size: 1 cup

Per Serving:
Calories 230; Total Fat 7 g (Sat Fat 3 g, Mono Fat 1.5 g, Poly Fat 2 g); Protein 3 g; Carb 42 g; Fiber 6 g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 75 mg


Aromatic Beef Stew with Butternut Squash

From "So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every meal of the Week"

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound stew beef (round or chuck), cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled cubed butternut squash, cut into 1 ½ -inch cubes (about 2 ½ cups)
One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
One 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked whole-wheat couscous
[1/4] 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate, leaving the juices in the saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute. Return the beef to the pot and stir in the squash, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

Spoon the stew over the couscous, and sprinkle each serving with almonds and parsley.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 3/4 cups

Per Serving:
Calories 480; Total Fat 13 g (Sat Fat 3 g, Mono Fat 6 g, Poly Fat 2 g); Protein 34 g; Carb 56 g; Fiber 8 g; Cholesterol 65 mg; Sodium 150 mg


Another herb that measures high on the antioxidant list. It has also been shown to have certain antibacterial properties. Fresh thyme is a source of Vitamin A, C, manganese, iron, and Omega 3 fatty Acids. Dried thyme is a source for Vitamin K, dietary fiber, folate, and magnesium as well. It's a great herb to cook with on the fall, and goes nicely in everything from roast vegetables to tea.


Chicken Pot Pie with Phyllo Crust

From "The Food You Crave: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

Cooking spray
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, bottom 4 inches only, trimmed, washed well, and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 medium white potatoes, left unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup peas, thawed if frozen
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 4 individual-sized baking dishes with cooking spray.

Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add 2 more teaspoons of oil, the leeks, and celery to the pan and cook, stirring a few times, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, garlic, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring to combine everything. Add the milk. Stir the flour into the broth until dissolved and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken, peas, parsley, and thyme. Spoon the mixture into the baking dishes.

Put the remaining 1 2/3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into quarters. Place a quarter-sheet on top of each baking dish and brush with the oil. Repeat layering with all three layers. Tuck the edges of the phyllo into the dish rim. Sprinkle the top of each pie with the Parmesan.

Place on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 pot pie

Per Serving:
Calories 585; Total fat 13g (Sat fat 3g, Mono fat 7g, Poly fat 1.5g); Protein 50g; Carb 70g; Fiber 8g; Cholesterol 88mg; Sodium 960mg


Thyme-Infused Tea

Simmer your water with a stick of thyme for a few minutes before adding in your favorite tea bag.


Curry powder is a mixture of many herbs and spices, the combination of spices used in making curry powder is varies in different countries and regions, but the one ingredient that is present to all mixture is "turmeric." And it is the tumeric that gives curry powder many of its health benefits.

A study in the November issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism suggests turmeric almost completely prevented joint swelling in rats with arthritis. Other studies have suggested that the spice could protect against diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's, a degenerative brain disease that afflicts nearly 5 million people in the U.S., according to USA Today.

Rates of Alzheimer's in India are about four times lower than in the USA, says Gregory Cole, a researcher at the University of California-Los Angeles. His studies suggest that curry contains a powerful substance that might protect the brain from damage that leads to Alzheimer's.

Curry powder can help reduce inflammation of the joints; this is due to the presence of curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.


South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry

by Ellie Krieger from the November issue of Fine Cooking Magazine

2 Tbs. canola oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (1 Tbs.)
1 Tbs. ground coriander
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 cups lower-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup light coconut milk
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small cauliflower, broken into 1-1/2-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (about 1 cup)
One 15-1/2-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz. baby spinach (about 4 lightly packed cups)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium (or medium low if necessary) and cook until the onion is richly browned, 5 to 7 minutes more. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, for 1 minute to blend the flavors. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne; stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended with the aromatics, about 1 minute. Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon stick, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium low or low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. Raise the heat to medium high and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the chickpeas, spinach, lime juice, and zest; cook until the spinach has wilted, about 3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt. Serve garnished with the cilantro.

Makes 6 servings

Per Serving:
Calories (kcal): 300; Fat (g): 10; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): 2; Protein (g): 12; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Carbohydrates (g): 45; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 680; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 12;


Try sprinkling curry powder on top of your scrambled eggs in the morning, or mixing it into your favorite tuna salad recipe for sandwiches or picnics.


Ginger is another renowned anti-inflammatory and circulation booster. According to the University of Maryland's website: In China, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. In addition to these medicinal uses, ginger continues to be valued around the world as an important cooking spice and is believed to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and even painful menstrual periods. Native to Asia where its use as a culinary spice spans at least 4,400 years, ginger grows in fertile, moist, tropical soil.

Usually thought of as an ingredient used in Asian cooking, ginger actually makes a great year round ingredient in many dishes you might not have thought of.


Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

From "The Food You Crave: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

1/2 cup Teriyaki Sauce (recipe follows)
One 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of all visible fat and silverskin

Put the teriyaki sauce and pork in a sealable plastic bag. Seal the bag and marinate the pork in the refrigerator, turning once, for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the pork from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the pork on a roasting pan and broil until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 155°F, about 15 minutes, turning once. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: about 4 slices

Per Serving:
Calories 212; Total fat 8g (Sat fat 2.5g, Mono fat 3.5g, Poly fat 1g); Protein 30g; Carb 4g; Fiber 0g; Cholesterol 94mg; Sodium 337mg

Teriyaki Sauce

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 cloves cloves, crushed with a garlic press or minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Makes about 1/2 cup
Serving size: 2 tablespoons

Per Serving:
Calories 40; Total fat 0g; Protein 1g; Carb 8g; Fiber 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 535mg


Ginger Spiced Hot Cocoa

From "The Food You Crave: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week"

1 cup nonfat milk
One 1/4-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into two rounds
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon dark chocolate shavings
2 teaspoons water

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and ginger together over medium-low heat until scalding hot (little bubbles will start forming around the edge of the pan), about 4 minutes.

While the milk is warming, put the cocoa and sugar into a mug. Add the water to the mug and stir until the mixture has the consistency of a paste.

Remove the ginger from the warmed milk. Add the chocolate mixture to the milk and whisk until slightly frothy. Pour the hot chocolate into the mug, top with the chocolate shavings, and enjoy.

Makes 1 serving

Per Serving:
Calories 165; Total fat 4g (Sat fat 2g, Mono fat 1g, Poly fat 0g); Protein 9g; Carb 24g; Fiber 1g; Cholesterol 14mg; Sodium 120mg

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