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Spice up your Plate!

Nichole Greiner

Dietetic Student, Eastern Michigan University

Food is always better when it is seasoned correctly, and according to McCormick, Americans are exploring new options to spice up their food now more than ever.  McCormick, a spice company that has been in sales since 1889, reports that today’s home cook is likely to keep at least 40 seasonings in their kitchen (1).  Compare this to the average of 10 spices that homemakers utilized in the 1950’s, and you’ll see what adventurous cooks we have become.

The rising use of a variety of spices reflects a trend to decrease sodium, fat and sugar levels in foods.  Utilizing spices instead of calorically dense condiments and additives can help to decrease the risk of serious health threats, including heart disease and stroke.  The average adult consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day; however, the daily recommendations are only 2,300 milligrams for a healthy adult and no more than 1,500 milligrams for at-risk populations.  Next time you want to reach for the salt shaker to add some flavor to a meal, try utilizing a spice or sodium-free spice blend instead.  Mrs. Dash offers several blends that are free of salt that can be put on just about anything, from burgers and fruit to pasta and vegetables.  Not all spices are sodium-free, so it is important to look for this on the label.  Garlic salt and celery salt are just two examples of spices blended with salt.

The top three selling spices, black pepper, vanilla extract and cinnamon, have remained the same since the end of World War II, however our spice racks have still gone through a dramatic makeover.  Oregano, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika are spices that have gained recent popularity while sales figures for former top sellers like allspice and lemon extract have fallen slightly (1).  When you look at the spice aisle today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the choices.  With a little experimentation and exploration of new recipes, you’ll notice that there are plenty of ways to utilize the wide variety of available spices.  Oregano, currently one of the more popular spices, is great on pizza, vegetables, meat and fish.  As a staple ingredient in Italian-American food, you are likely to find it bread dips, sauces, and pasta dishes.

Not only do spices add flavor to foods, but they also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals.  In 2005 it was noted that iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and potassium were the major mineral contributors and vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C were the top vitamin contributors from the spice supply (2).  The antioxidant activity of spices is another benefit to keeping them in your meal rotations.  Antioxidants work to prevent damage to your body cells caused by free radicals and can also help to improve immune function.   McCormick recognizes several antioxidant-rich “super spices” because of their nutrition and health benefits.  These spices include: black pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, oregano, red pepper, rosemary, thyme and turmeric (3).  These versatile spices can be added to a wide assortment of meals, so look for recipes with these ingredients.

Next time you’re looking to prepare a meal, think about ways to spice up your dish.  Regularly incorporating spices into your foods will give you flavorful meals with tremendous health benefits.  Experiment with new varieties and remember, a little bit can go a long way to turn your meal into something truly tasty!


1. Reinagel M. Not your mother's spice cabinet. Food and Nutrition. 2012 Spring:14-17.


2. Hiza H. Availability of spices on the rise in the U.S. food supply. Alexandria (VA): USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Nutrition Insight 39. 2008 March.


3. Spices for Health [Internet]. Sparks (MD): McCormick & Company, Inc.; [Updated 2011; cited 2012 October 30]. Available from:



Last Updated on Monday, 20 July 2015 13:34

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