We’d be kidding ourselves if we said our holiday diets were healthy. But amidst the excessive portions, festive sugar intake and, let’s be honest, a couple of extra glasses of wine here and there, there is one holiday food group that is pretty unimpeachable in the nutrition department: Spices.
That spice blend in your cookies or cakes, the topping to your hot, seasonal beverage — although they add flavor, dimension and color to the season’s culinary masterpieces — are also a source of anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and vitamin richness
Add it to your roast meat, potato mash or even your cookies. Not only does rosemary’s green, winter-y aroma evoke the holiday season, it’s a health powerhouse, especially if you use a grill: One study at Kansas State University found that adding rosemary extract to hamburger patties reduced the meat’s contents of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are carcinogens that form on red meat when it is cooked on a grill or broiled.
This anti-inflammatory root is found in just about every Christmas dessert worth eating, from gingerbread to pfeffernüsse. But ginger can also help if you’ve overdone it on the other tasty treats: Studies show that the root helps soothe stomachs by reducing feelings of nausea.
Sure, you’ll sprinkle it into your hot cider or spice your wine with it, but did you know that this bark is actually a health food? Some studies show that including cinnamon in your diet can help stabilize blood sugar levels if you suffer from Type 2 diabetes. There’s also some evidence that cinnamon has antibacterial properties. That said, it’s important to be moderate with the spice, which was most recently associated with liver damage, according to a report in The Guardian, because of its high levels of the compound coumarin.
Indeed, it’s probably best not to nibble on all the candy canes lying around after you have finished decorating the tree, but there’s no reason to avoid their superstar ingredient, peppermint. The mint brightens upwards chocolate and adds depth to help confections, but it also offers a vitamin-packed punch, thanks to high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin C. What’s more, research shows that the flavor may help reduce tension headaches, improve concentration, curb appetite and in many cases reduce cold symptoms.
While you’re grating some over your eggnog, don’t forget to give a little thanks for nutmeg, the powerhouse seed that contains anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.