I like my food to be very flavorful. And I’ve learned that my spice chest can also be my medicine cabinet. So when I begin to create a recipe, I reach for the oils, herbs, spices, and sweeteners that will do my body good. I’ve picked out my Top 35 flavorings so that you, too, can defy aging while you cook.
Fats are a very controversial subject. Butter, in particular, has gone in and out of favor with nutritionists over the last 20 years. Today the consensus is that butter, in moderation, is actually better for your arteries than margarine, trans fats, and hydrogenated fats or oils. Butter contains the FoodTrient zinc, which increases your resistance to infection; calcium and phosphorous, which help build and maintain strong bones, teeth, hair, and nails; B12 and riboflavin, which provide energy; vitamin D, which boosts the immune system; and the FoodTrient Vitamin E, an anti-inflammatory. I use butter in baking, but when I want to use a butter substitute in a recipe, I turn to Smart Balance buttery spread, which is a blend of butter and non-hydrogenated oils with omega-3 fatty acids, another FoodTrient.
I’ve been telling everyone about the health benefits of coconut oil for years. Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid, whereas animal fats are long-chain fatty acids. Although coconut oil is a saturated fat, your body can easily break it down because it comes from a plant. Studies have shown that coconut oil actually improves your cholesterol balance. It also promotes prostate health and is anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. An anti-inflammatory, coconut oil is good for your brain, arteries, and skin. You can even use it topically to reduce acne, fight fungus, heal wounds, strengthen hair, and keep skin hydrated and young-looking. I use coconut oil for sautéing veggies—especially in Asian recipes. It’s great for cooking rice in sweet or savory recipes and as a base for Indian curries.
I turn to olive oil when I want to make Mediterranean-flavored dishes. Olive oil has the FoodTrient oleocanthal and other polyphenols that work together as powerful antioxidants. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation throughout the body as well as the risk of heart disease. Other vegetable oils, such as sesame seed oil, hemp seed oil, and flaxseed oil, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
Fresh aromatic vegetables, such as onions, garlic, and ginger, add more than just flavor to my recipes. They also help keep me young and healthy. I buy organic vegetables whenever possible. Onions contain quercetin, a FoodTrient that supports the immune system, reduces inflammation, and lowers allergic sensitivity. They also are packed with sulfur compounds and indoles, two FoodTrients that detoxify the body and help prevent cancer. In addition to indoles, garlic contains the FoodTrient allicin, which lowers cholesterol, reduces risk of a stroke because it thins the blood, and inhibits growth of bacteria. Ginger provides the FoodTrient gingerol, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compound that alleviates nausea and decreases the risk of certain cancers.
Fresh herbs, when bright green and stirred into dishes raw (not cooked), contain the FoodTrient chlorophyll. I’m thinking of parsley, cilantro, and basil in particular. Chlorophyll can purify your blood, detoxify your system, and manage bacterial growth. Cilantro does all of that and also can pull heavy metals out of your body. Lemongrass is a tasty, lemon-scented grass that contains citrol—an anti-fungal, anti-microbial antioxidant. Celery balances acetylcholine levels in the brain, keeping you in a good mood and your brain functioning optimally.
Spices are a veritable medicine cabinet. Everything from black pepper to allspice to cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg can enhance your health. Chile peppers are high in the FoodTrient vitamin C and in capsaicin, making them a pain blocker that protects your skin from sun damage and aging. Mustard contains indoles, and turmeric has the FoodTrient curcumin—an amazing anti-inflammatory. Currently, I’m creating spice blends designed to flavor red meat, vegetables, grains, and sweets. These mixes will contain the most powerful spices available to target health benefits like cancer prevention, detoxification, a good mood, and beauty. Once I perfect the blends, I’ll share them with you.
I also like to cook with green tea and black tea because they contain the FoodTrient catechins as well as theaflavins and flavanoids that are all so good for me.
Sweeteners are a tricky category. I avoid high-fructose corn syrup like the plague because it’s not a natural ingredient. Regular corn syrup has been jacked up into something our bodies don’t handle well. It’s best to avoid it altogether. White, refined table sugar has fewer nutrients than brown sugar or demerara sugar or molasses. Natural sweeteners such as honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, and coconut sugar or coconut nectar also have more nutrients than white table sugar plus some added health benefits. All of these sweeteners will raise blood sugar levels, so if you have diabetes or need to keep your blood sugar low, use alternatives like stevia, a natural leaf, or xylitol, which kills bacteria in the mouth. Aspartame (NutraSweet) can help promote a good mood because it contains phenylalanine, which helps produce dopamine. Dark chocolate isn’t a sweetener per se, but it adds health benefits to sweet foods. Its catechins, flavanoids, and polyphenols help prevent cavities, shield against environmental toxins, help produce serotonin (a good-mood brain chemical), and may enhance weight loss.
Here are my top 35 anti-aging flavorings:
- agave syrup
- aspartame (NutraSweet)
- black pepper
- black tea
- brown sugar
- chile peppers
- chocolate, dark
- coconut milk
- coconut oil
- coconut sugar (or nectar)
- flaxseed oil
- green tea
- hemp seed oil
- maple syrup
- olive oil
- sesame seed oil