E-Kidney | August 2013

Spice Up Your Diet with 7 Kidney–Friendly Seasonings

Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD
Duane Sunwold

Doctor w/ clipboard

Spices and herbs have long been used to improve the taste, aroma and appeal of food. Now there’s evidence that these kitchen staples not only please our palate, but they may actually help improve our health. Research shows potential benefits of spices and herbs, which are rich in antioxidants and excellent sources of other vitamins and minerals. Modern science has begun to examine the compounds that make up these herbs and spices, and to date, more than 2,000 of them have been identified in herbs and spices. Many spices and herbs even contain nutrient levels comparable to fruits and vegetables!

It’s easier to cut back on sugar, salt and fat when you have flavorful replacements that are also kidney-friendly. This way, it doesn’t feel like you’re missing anything! And because these herbs and spices are easy to incorporate into everyday meals, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion to start shaking things up in your diet! The National Kidney Foundation offers 7 Kidney-Friendly Seasonings to Spice Up Your Diet:

    1. Rosemary: This herb supports brain health, memory and cognition. Not sure how to use rosemary? It’s easy. Before baking frozen dinner rolls brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle them with crushed rosemary leaves. You can also try to add a Tuscan twist to chicken or vegetable soup by sprinkling in a little oregano, thyme and rosemary.
    2. Garlic: Garlic has both antibacterial and antioxidant benefits. For a boost of flavor and nutrients, add garlic powder or crushed garlic to pasta, rice or cooked vegetables. You can also give garlic bread a healthy makeover by mixing olive oil with fresh garlic or garlic powder and brushing it over Italian bread. Broil the bread for 2-3 minutes.
    3. Oregano: Like many leafy greens, oregano is high in vitamin K, which supports bone and blood health. Sprinkle oregano on your garlic bread for that traditional “pizza flavor” without the potassium that tomatoes contain. You can also mix oregano and garlic powder to easily add herbs to pastas and stir fries.
    4. Chili: Chili peppers are a good source of vitamin A, which contributes to eye and skin health. Recent research has shown that consuming chilies may also give your metabolism a boost. If you typically shy away from spicy foods, there are many ways to incorporate chilies into your diet without burning your tongue. A “spice spectrum” exists to help you distinguish the milder chilies from those with a kick. From most to least spicy: cayenne, crushed red pepper, black pepper and paprika are some chilies to try. Easy ways to add them to your diet include sprinkling paprika over deviled eggs, tuna or chicken salad or adding cayenne pepper to your favorite vinaigrette. Please note that extra vitamin A is not recommended for those with kidney failure.
    5. Ginger: This root has been known to aid in digestion and to help with nausea. Ginger has many anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain relief properties that make it a great addition to your diet. Often found in Asian recipes, ginger is easy to add to poultry and fish marinades. It can even be added to fruit salads and it complements green tea and lemonade.
    6. Cinnamon: According to recent research, this spice may help to regulate blood sugar. Cinnamon can be easily added to applesauce, cream of wheat or even sliced raw or baked apples for a delicious and healthy snack!
    7. Basil: Basil adds a burst of flavor without adding high amounts of potassium or phosphorus. It’s easy to include basil in everyday meals. Try basil leaves instead of lettuce on a sandwich or shred and use as garnish.