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Spice It Up This Spring

Ashley Gehl, Dietetic Intern, NDSU Extension Service

The snow gone, temperatures are rising, and the grass is turning green. Spring is the perfect time to spice things up, starting with food!  Integrating spices and herbs in cooking not only intensifies flavor, but also provides the body with ample amounts of immune system-boosting benefits.


You may think of fruits and vegetables as immune boosters, because they are among the best-known foods that contain antioxidants. However, herbs and spices also pack a punch in their disease-fighting capability. In fact, one teaspoon of dried oregano is equivalent to the amount of antioxidants found in one cup of sweet potatoes. 


Polyphenolic compounds, such as rosmaric acid (found in thyme and oregano), eugenol (found in cloves and allspice), and gallic acid (found in cloves) are the main sources of antioxidant power found in herbs and spices. These polyphenolic compounds prevent inflammatory responses in the body. Additionally, researchers have concluded that dried herbs and spices contain the same amount of antioxidant properties as fresh herbs and spices.


Garden-planting season is a wonderful time to start an indoor herb and spice garden to enjoy immune-boosting benefits all year round. Try growing basil, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives, cilantro, lavender, and sweet marjoram in containers or garden plots. Some herbs and spices fight inflammation, and some may reduce risk for heart disease or boost immunity.    


  • Use in salads or tabbouleh, or season carrots, egg, eggplant, potatoes or tomatoes. 


  • Season poultry or add to beans, stuffing and pasta.


  • Season chicken, fish, lamb, pork, potatoes, or add to stews.
  • Spicy Surprise: rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry because the rosmarinic acid and other antioxidants found in rosemary fight bacteria to prevent meat from spoiling. 


  • Season beef or chicken, or add to pasta or tomatoes.

Including herbs and spices into your diet is a simple way to enhance flavor and nutrition in any dish.

For information about growing, preserving and using herbs, see From Garden to Table:  Harvesting Herbs for Healthy Eating (H1267) at

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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