Well, Broncos, it’s the season of love again and heart-eye emojis are in the air. You may be considering breaking out the big bucks to take your valentine to dinner, but what’s more romantic than a freshly prepared meal for you and your sweetheart? Although we may be Nutrition students, we can’t forget the other, tastier half of our major: FOOD.
When I first started in dietetics, I hated that people told me I had to like cooking. I wanted to learn about the health of the food, not how to make it. However, I quickly realized that the two go hand-in-hand. So what makes dishes healthy? Yes, macronutrient balance is the easy answer, but what about vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the works.
As future dietitians and health food advocates, our secret weapons are spices. While the food industry tends to over-salt everything, cooking with spices and herbs allows us to add flavor without added sodium. You can think of spices and herbs as tiny fruits and vegetables with all the same benefits, concentrated in small, colorful packages. Whether it’s recipe development, modification, or creation, cooking allows you to take your health into your own hands (and this Valentine’s day, your date’s too!)
Turmeric is one of my absolute favorites and if you have ever cooked with it, you know it dyes everything yellow. Unfortunate for your fingers, but beneficial for your body, turmeric contains the yellow pigment curcumin, which has been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In a recent, 2017 study, done by Bastyr University in Washington state, it was found that curcumin inhibits the growth of certain types of tumors (Bastyr University, 2017); a side effect well worth yellow fingers. Found commonly in Indian cuisine, this can be added to lots of ethnic recipes that can be made quick and easy.
Ginger (which is in the same family as turmeric) also contains curcumins, giving it the beneficial, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as some added bonuses. Nervous for your big date? Add a fresh piece of ginger to some hot water and enjoy some stomach-soothing tea. If you have a more bromantic evening planned at the gym, a 2015 study showed that ginger significantly reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (Hoseinzadeh, et al).
Cumin can be added to so many different recipes making it a spice cupboard must. In a 2014 study, comparing two groups of obese women trying to lose weight, those who added cumin into their diet saw a greater reduction in serum cholesterol levels (Zare R., et al).
Rosemary is technically a herb, but to stick with our theme here we’ll roll with it. Rosemary contains a naturally-occurring antibacterial compound, alpha-Pinene which can help fight bacteria in the body, such as foodborne pathogens and acne. Rosemary also contains rosmarinic acid, a strong antioxidant, which also promotes skin health to keep you glowing for love day (Tadtong et al, 2016).
Although this may mean doing dishes, getting fancy in the kitchen can impress your date while stirring up love and some new favorite dishes. Enjoy Valentine’s Day, and stay spicy Broncos.