A common question among new Paleo participants is whether or not spices fall into the “allowed” category. Thankfully, spices can be an easy option while navigating the minefield of restricted items, as they are 100% paleo. In their most basic form, spices are ground up plants of various types, with no added ingredients or preservatives. Their health and flavor properties are plentiful and have been revered through the ages all around the world. The benefits of exploring new and different types of spices include diversifying your meal plan, adding vitamins and antioxidants to your diet, and peace of mind that no matter what spice you use, it will fall within paleo parameters.
When cooking Paleo foods, high-quality meats, produce, and fruit comprises much of the menu, so spices are an easy way to give variety and flavor to what might otherwise become a routine and tiring recipes. By simply adding different seasonings to a dish, you can transport it to various regions of the world, explore different levels of heat, and throw in some medicinal benefits. Here are a few useful spices to keep in your spice rack that will provide flavor and nuance to your paleo diet:
Dried basil is a staple spice that can be added to many different dishes. There are over 35 different varieties of basil, all of which contain antioxidants and magnesium. While often associated with Italian food, a strain of the plant called Holy basil is also used in Thai and Indian cooking. Use this spice to add flavor to oven baked chicken, roasted vegetables, or a fresh tomato sauce.
Curry powder is a surprisingly versatile spice mix, native to South Asia. Curry powder has anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. It adds an Indian flavor to baked cauliflower, roasted Brussel sprouts, or even eggs. Curry powder is also useful for warm soups during the winter, lending a healthy and rich flavor to anything it is added to.
Bright yellow/orange turmeric has gained popularity the last few years for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. With a mild and delicious flavor, it pairs well with many sauces, soups, meats, and vegetables. It can also be sprinkled in herbal tea or hot water with lemon for a warm and healthy beverage.
Ground cinnamon is one of the Paleo diet’s most useful spices. Sprinkle it on apples for a delicious dessert alternative or pour it on roasted meats to add a slightly sweet flavor to mix with the savory. If you choose to drink small amounts of coffee on your diet, you can add cinnamon for a flavor and dimension in place of artificial sweeteners. Cinnamon is high in fiber, rich in antioxidants, and contains manganese.
While pepper is a usual kitchen suspect, freshly ground mixed peppercorns or high quality black pepper add rich flavors and subtle spice to almost any dish. Season any type of beef, chicken, or fish with high quality pepper and a brush of olive oil for an easy lunch or dinner. Pepper also pairs well with most other spices, complimenting stronger flavors while maintaining it’s own addition to the dish.
Dried ginger has the unique quality of being an antiemetic, meaning it can quell upset stomachs and morning sickness during pregnancy. It is also very useful in preventing motion sickness. Cooking with ginger can add a spice that is not too hot to a dish, usually Asian in origin. Add ginger to a vegetable stir-fry for a Chinese twist, or combine with turmeric in hot water for a simple, yet delicious morning tea.
These spices, along with countless others, offer a wide range of flavors and health benefits that deserve to be explored within a paleo diet. Knowing that they have been used for hundreds of years prior to usage of preservatives speaks volumes into how they add to the paleo lifestyle. Explore your local health food store, Middle Eastern markets, and Asian grocery stores for high quality and authentic spices that you may or may not have tried. Picking up something you’ve never used before can make cooking something as simple as chicken or steak a new culinary adventure. Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone, you never know what spice you might find as a new kitchen staple. Once you find your favorites, add them to your spice rack for easy access to season any meal of the day, and enjoy the newfound flavors and benefits of spices in Paleo cooking.