Lunden Souza: Add spice to your food -- and your life

03/24/2012 1:23 AM

03/24/2012 1:56 AM

The transition into a healthier and cleaner diet can often be difficult on the taste buds. The foods that are high in sodium, high in refined processed carbohydrates and all of those spreads that are high in fat can be extremely addicting and hard to eliminate from your diet because they just taste so good, right?

Eating healthy does not have to be tasteless, bland or boring. There are a lot of spices out there that can spruce up a meal, while simultaneously being beneficial for your body and helpful in your weight-loss goals.

My three favorite spices are cinnamon, garlic (or garlic powder) and cayenne pepper in the form of red chili flakes.

Cinnamon has been shown to increase metabolism and helps your body burn body fat a lot faster than it normally would on its own. There has also been research that suggests that cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar for those with Type-2 diabetes and also can help lower LDL, which is the "bad" cholesterol. Cinnamon can be added to oatmeal, chocolate and banana protein shakes, sweet potatoes, and on top of whole wheat toast with almond butter. This is a tasty and powerful spice.

Garlic also reduces "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and increases "good" cholesterol (HDL), strengthens and supports a healthy immune system and can also act as a blood thinner. In the case of weight loss, garlic has also been found to be an appetite suppressant which can help eliminate the problem of overeating. Often, it isn't so much what we eat, but how much of it we eat. Portion control is key, even when eating healthy foods, and adding some appetite control to the mix is definitely useful. Garlic powder is something that I add to all of my sautéed vegetables and also to my chicken and fish. It can also be added to low-fat salad dressings, soups and pasta sauces.

I absolutely love really spicy foods, which is why I love red chili flakes. The more my mouth is on fire, the better. Red chili flakes are very spicy, but can be added in small amounts to foods for an extra kick. There's a compound called capsaicin in these tiny pepper flakes that can help boost your metabolism and can also aid in appetite suppression. (Maybe because the food is so hot that you cannot bear to eat anymore ... joking). Throw some red chili flakes in your pasta sauce, on sautéed vegetables, in homemade chili (see for my Super Bowl chili recipe), in ground turkey for healthy tacos or burritos, on brown rice, or on top of a homemade healthy pizza.

Healthy and clean eating isn't boring if you know how to incorporate various spices to make foods more enjoyable.

There are many more spices that can be beneficial to your health and weight-loss goals, so don't be afraid to research and experiment with a variety of flavors to see what you like.

Perhaps this will be the answer to getting your children to actually like healthier food -- if there are flavors that they enjoy. I have heard from a lot of moms who find it hard to go out of their way to transition into healthier eating because the rest of their family won't enjoy it -- especially their children. Let them decide what flavors they like and don't like, and I think you'll be surprised at how much they do enjoy these flavors without even knowing that they are beneficial to their bodies.

Now is the time to dismiss the salty and buttery flavors and to incorporate more natural tastes.

Eventually your taste buds will change and your body will start to crave -- as well as be completely satisfied -- by those natural spices.

Lunden Souza can be reached at

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