by Katie Haarala R.D.

Sure, we want dishes that are delightfully delicious, but all too often the addition of flavor stems from butter, salt, heavy cream, or sugar; ingredients that can have detrimental effects on your health if consumed beyond moderation.  However, there are flavor aids as old as your grandmum’s greatest grandmum, ready to tantalize your taste buds, add a nutritional punch, and that might possibly help you tighten your belt a notch or two.  Sound too good to be true? Read on, friends, and decide for yourself.  


Turn up the heat!  The chemical found in hot peppers that adds the kick is capsaicin. For those who will brave the heat, cayenne may provide a couple bodily benefits such as relieving respiratory congestion, improving digestion, fighting inflammation, and slightly increasing your metabolism for up to 20 minutes after you consume the spicy food. It’s also known as a great source of vitamin A from the pro-vitamin A carotenoids. How’s that for getting spicy? Place it in chili, soups, or anywhere you want a zesty kick.

Black Pepper

Not just the best friend of salt, black pepper has health benefits that help it stand on its very own.  Found first in the presence of the peppercorn, black pepper is believed to improve digestion and promote optimal intestinal health.  The black pepper has a way of stimulating our taste buds and informing the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid production; this production of acid is imperative for the breakdown of our food, especially proteins.  If I haven’t convinced you yet to top your next dish with pepper (unless it’s cherry cheesecake, because that would be gross), then perhaps I will sway you with thes

e last bits of nutritional information.  Studies have shown that piperine, found in black pepper, may help you absorb some nutrients found in your food such as vitamin C or beta-carotene.  Additionally, black pepper appears to slightly improve fat metabolism for several hours after consumption.  To receive the most nutritional impact from pepper, make sure you purchase whole peppercorns with a built-in grinder.


Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices. It has a warming nature that evokes holiday cheer! The component cinnameldahyde found in cinnamon has proven to have anti-inflamm

atory properties and helps reduce the likelihood of clot formation in the blood. It has also been found to reduce blood sugar levels in individuals suffering from type 2 Diabetes. If you would like to delve even deeper into the topic of cinnamon, take a look here: Cinnamon is grand.


Sometimes referred to as the “Indian saffron” due to the rich yellow-orange coloring of the spice.  The component that benefits your health in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and aids any part of the body that is experiencing ailment, from toothaches to bruises. More research is needed, but recent studies have shown that turmeric may suppress the growth of fat tissue. With those health benefits, I concur: This spice is rather nice.  

Here is the moral of the story of spices: they add flavor without adding calories, have nutritional benefits, and may even help you burn a few calories.  However, adding cinnamon to your second helping of apple pie and assuming it will be useful in weight loss would be silly.  But please, add pepper to your soups, tumeric to your favorite Indian dishes, cayenne to anything needing an extra spice note, and cinnamon to that morning bowl of oatmeal.  Reap the benefits of the spice world.  Revel in natural nutrition. And spice up your life!  

Eat Intelligently, Friends!

To read more of Katie’s Health & Wellness Advice on intotheSoup.comClick Here

About Katie

Kate Paige Haarala is a registered dietitian (R.D.) from Minnesota who has an undying passion for nutrition education and helping others incorporate healthy dishes into their daily menu.  She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Food, Nutrition & Dietetics along with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise Science. You can catch more of Katie on her blog by clicking here.