Spice It Up! Spices and Herbs you need at Home

Spices and Herbs you need at Home              By Dr. Iris I. Mercado, EdD, CDN

Spices and herbs (fresh or dried) are commonly used to add flavor and color to your dishes but they also add some nutritional and health benefits. In addition to vitamins, minerals and the food preservation capacity of spices, they provide antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can bring remarkable disease-fighting benefits and medicinal value to your meals.

Both, spices and herbs come from plants, what make them different is from where they are obtained. Herbs are from the leafy, green part of the plant and Spices are from the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. Herbs include basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, rosemary and mint. Spices are usually dried and/or powdered like cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, cloves, ginger and pepper.

Use fresh herbs and spices to boost nutrients and flavor in your green salads, vinaigrettes and sauces and to “spice up” your favorite dishes. Some herbs/spices are used for their taste while others for their aroma. The cooking stage at which herbs/spices are added to a dish can make a big difference. Soft leaf herbs such as basil and cilantro are best uncooked or added at the end of cooking to retain flavor, aroma and color. Hardy herbs like rosemary and oregano can stand the heat so it is better to add them early in the cooking process.

The aroma and flavor of spices come from its essential oils. The oils in most spices contain many constituent chemical compounds that enhance taste and impart their medicinal benefits. Spices like turmeric and garlic need to be cooked for their extraordinary medicinal compounds and flavors to be released. Stay away from the bland stereotype associated with nutritious food and keep your healthy dishes colorful and tasty with these essential herbs and spices.

Cayenne Pepper– Made from red chili pepper. Capsaicin is the compound in peppers that gives them their “heat” and stimulates the release of endorphins in the body, a natural pain and stress relief, and has been shown to curb appetite and boost metabolism and fat oxidation. Continue reading

Put the Soda, Juice and Crystal light down, Slowly…

Infused water is becoming increasingly popular these days. You can flavor your water with your own healthy ingredients by using fruits and veggies!
While there are powders such as Crystal Light that can give your water flavor, if you take a look at the Nutrition Facts on the back of the container or packet, you’ll see that there are ingredients that are not even legible. That is never a good sign; know what you’re putting into your body.

Take Maltodextrin for example: it is also used in sodas and candy.Take the ingredient Maltodextrin for example: it is also used in sodas and candy.

You can give your water flavor and reap the benefits of what you infuse your water with. Each fruit and vegetable has vitamins and minerals that the body needs.

I prefer to get berries from the frozen aisle and then get everything else from the produce section, like lemons, limes, mint leaves and grapefruit.

Some Recipes I found on Pintrest.

Some Recipes I found on Pintrest.

*Dr. Mercado’s recommends: shredded ginger, sliced lemon and a pinch of cinnamon powder to reduce inflammation. Also, pineapples and a cinnamon stick.

My Infused Water - lemon, ginger and mint

My Infused Water – lemon, ginger and mint. Bottle purchased from Amazon.com

Have you tried infusing your water? Share some of your favorite recipes!

Be Healthy. Keep Smiling. Enjoy Life.

9 Tips on How to Beat the Bug

There’s a bug going around, has it bitten you yet? It has certainly bitten me!

Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind. Hot. Cold. Warm. SNOW! This constant change in weather can trigger a cold and for those of you who suffer from asthma and or bronchitis know that as soon as we get a cold, the breathing issues are sure to follow not too far behind.

But life doesn’t stop and neither do we! Our responsibilities are calling to us so who has time to be sick!? The show must go on!

Here are some tips to keep you going:

  1. Trade in your morning coffee for tea instead; Mornings are the worst when a cold is involved and I am lethal whenever I don’t have my morning coffee, but the past couple days I’ve been drinking a large hot tea with lemon and it’s been helping me to get over the morning hump. If you’re drinking coffee do so in moderation (no more than 2 cups a day) as caffeine can cause dehydration. Black and green teas usually contain caffeine and most herbal teas don’t.
  1. Drink ginger and lemon tea; Ginger is a healthy anti-inflammatory and immune booster and lemon is full of vitamin C.
  1. Keep yourself hydrated with water! One of the symptoms of dehydration is fatigue; drink water to keep your energy up. Also, water helps with thinning out mucus and decongestion. Water cleanses and improves organ function
  1. Soup it up! My favorite is Chicken Tortilla soup from Fairway. The broth has the perfect kick of spice to clear my sinuses. And the truth is, any soup will do; soup is warm, comforting and helps with the decongestion. Hot liquids (tea or soups) relieve nasal congestion and relieve inflammation of nose and throat. Soups also contain salt and other electrolytes that help prevent dehydration.
  1. For the brave soul… Eat a clove of raw garlic. Garlic has some antibiotic affects. Warning: do not try to do it on an empty stomach.
  1. Try and get a good night’s rest. The body needs sleep to heal and recover.
  1. Use saline nasal spray for a stuffy nose. Use nasal irrigators or a bulb with warm water and salt (1/2-1tsp/cup water).
  1. For sore throat, gargle with warm water with either salt or apple cider.
  1. Eat fruits and drink juices with vitamin C (citrus, pineapple).

What are some of the things you do to beat a cold? Share your tips with the Hostos community in the comment section below.



    Be Healthy. Keep Smiling. Enjoy Life.

More Weight Management and Fitness Apps


Weight Management and Fitness Related Digital Applications for IPad

Digital applications are very popular among young adults and college students.  In todays world “there is an App for that”.  There are numerous applications for IPad and smart phones that can help people with weigh control and fitness issues.  This “apps” or applications can help people track food intake, exercise and physical activities, give nutritional information and advice, count calories, provided reminders for drinking water, eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and some help you to go grocery shopping and read labels.  Many apps are free some required payment and many start free and later you need to pay for upgrades.  In my experience the free versions are good enough.  Many of these apps require your commitment and time to continue adding and acquiring the information and the benefits that they may have.  Continue reading