If you want to add flavor to your food and reap some health benefits at the same time, just ask a doctor how they season their meals. Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based internist and gastroenterologist, has been harnessing the anti-inflammatory powers of of his spice cabinet for years, and there are a couple seasoning blends he swears by.
“Being Indian, our cooking tends to have lots of spices and amazing flavors. Many of them also have large health benefits. Though the evidence is still developing, garlic is one of my personal favorites,” Dr. Sonpal says. “One particular study that lasted 12 weeks found that adding a daily garlic supplement reduced colds by over 60 percent compared to a placebo group. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70 percent, from five days in the placebo group to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.”
When you pair garlic with oregano essential oil, you basically have the world’s most underrated power couple. “In 2017, a study found that oregano essential oil—particularly those derived from the leaves of the oregano plant—had strong antioxidant qualities. The researchers noted the traditional use of oregano oil in treating fevers and respiratory symptoms, which are both associated with the flu,” he says.
Dr. Sonpal says he uses garlic roasted in oil of oregano in all his pasta dishes, on avocado toast (“but only on mornings where I don’t have to speak to anyone,” he jokes), and in many of his Indian curries—primarily tomato-based dishes. Aside from garlic and oil of oregano, he’s also a huge fan of turmeric.
“Turmeric is a big component of Indian curry, usually blended with cardamom, coriander, clove, saffron, and cumin. The big heavy-hitter of health benefits comes from turmeric with its active ingredient curcumin,” he says. “Curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is actually so powerful that it can match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory medications without the side effects.”
Dr. Sonpal uses turmeric in pretty much every Indian cuisine he makes. “My mom makes the spice blends in a container for me. She’s the doctor on that one,” he says. “My personal favorite food to have it with is Paneer (cheese) and cream, tomato-based curry.”
So there you have it: Two doctor-approved seasoning blends you probably already have sitting in your pantry. Whether you add garlic roasted in oil of oregano to your avocado toast or whip up one of the best turmeric-packed curries you’ve ever tasted, you’ll be fighting off inflammation before you know it.
Turmeric benefits explained by a dietitian:
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