So if you’re watching your salt (or just want to mix things up a little bit), Karen Ansel R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer, helped us decode the trendy new spice blends you can swap in its place. Read on for her favorite spices to add both health benefits and depth to your dishes at the same time.
(Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)
This spice blend, which is the base of many curries, has it all, says Ansel—pepper to help lower your blood pressure, cinnamon to regulate your blood sugar, fennel seeds to ease digestion, cloves to prevent gas, star anise to beat bloat, and nutmeg to improve memory and relaxation. Try tossing with mixed nuts, rubbing into the protein of your choice for kabobs before grilling, and using to flavor corn on the cob or mashed potatoes. The earthy, autumnal flavors of this mix love to be mellowed with butter or ghee, but a little goes a long way. You can even add it to pastries and pumpkin pie, to add warmth and a slightly spicy kick.
This North-African paste can be store-bought or made at home. It stars metabolism-revving smoked chili peppers with a healthy dose of vitamins A, C, and B6 for your eyes, skin, and immune system as well as the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene, which is what gives the peppers their red color, according to Ansel. The flavors are rounded out by caraway (which can act as an antihistamine), iron-packed coriander, and tomato, rose petals, and mint. Its base of garlic and olive oil make it an awesome one-stop marinade to toss with carrots and other veggies before roasting, as well as to rub into poultry and pork. It also adds subtle heat to chilis and other sauces.
Iodine and B-vitamin-rich nori make this Japanese spice blend taste saltier than it really is, says Ansel, while detoxifying cayenne adds a peppery kick. With bone-building black and white sesame seeds for nuttiness, and illness-combating garlic and citrus, this crunchy bunch is a great lower-salt substitute to add to eggs, tuna salad, sauteed greens with sesame oil and soy sauce, edamame, or as a final garnish on crispy chicken, fish, or even oven-baked fries.
This verdant combo, a staple in Middle-Eastern cooking, is made of de-puffing, diuretic thyme, sesame seeds packed with phytosterols to help fight bad cholesterol, pain-quelling marjoram, and antibacterial, antifungal oregano, says Ansel. Try making a healthy “everything bagel” dip by topping Greek yogurt with za’atar, poppy seeds, garlic salt, dried shallots or chives, smoked Hungarian paprika, and a drizzle of olive oil. This blend is also great on top of whole-grain bread as a high-protein and high-fiber alternative to cream cheese on a bagel, and with hummus and pita chips.
It’s a classic for a reason. Curry powder features natural weight-loss aid cumin, craving-curbing fenugreek, and inflammation-tamping turmeric and mustard, according to Ansel. This is your slow-cooker or Instant Pot’s best bud. Add ample amounts to chilis, soups, stews, and curries to taste while they simmer. It also pairs nicely with shrimp, scallops, and other seafood, and the bright yellow adds a pop of color to your fresh catch on the plate.