This article was originally published in the Healthy Aging Initiative's March newsletter. The Initiative, an offering of Extension, provides physical activity and nutrition education and health promotion to elders throughout Nevada.
What is it about international cuisine that intrigues you? My husband enthusiastically told me “the flavors!” This man is a delight to cook for as he thoroughly enjoys eating and trying new foods, making it easy for me to venture out of the usual comfort foods to explore different ingredients and dishes.
Having an adventurous palate is a plus when it comes to tasting cultural foods because they can be so different than the foods to which we are familiar. But sometimes, we find dishes from other cultures share similarities with our own, making them great starting points to try.
The beautiful thing about our sense of taste is the surprise and enjoyment that new flavors or flavor combinations can produce. Not only do foods from around the world tickle our taste buds, but they can also help us eat healthier, and this is truly something we can celebrate.
Cinnamon – This fragrant spice is associated with sweet desserts and beverages but may also be used in main courses.
Cinnamon can help you use less sugar as it brings out the natural sweetness in foods. Some research shows cinnamon helps reduce blood sugar levels and lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Cinnamon is used in Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Lebanese, Moroccan and Chinese cuisines. Try stirring it into your coffee; sprinkling it over yogurt, fruit or hot cereal; or adding it to sweet potatoes, butternut squash and smoothies.
Turmeric – This strong spice is used to add flavor and a bright yellow color to dishes and beverages. Turmeric may help reduce inflammation and is an ingredient commonly used in Caribbean, Indian, North African, Middle Eastern and Indonesian dishes. Add turmeric to lentils, rice, vinaigrettes, soups or stews and see how much color and flavor it adds.
Ginger – This spice can be sweet, slightly spicy and sharp tasting all at once, and is used in Chinese, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Asian and Western cooking. Ginger has been used for centuries to aid digestion and help reduce nausea. For something different, try adding a little ginger to sweet potatoes, applesauce, salmon, salad dressing, ground beef, smoothies and tea – the possibilities are endless!
Assistant Professor Aurora Calvillo Buffington, Ph.D., RDN, is Extension's nutrition specialist.
Extension is a unit of the University's College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources engaged in Nevada communities, presenting research-based knowledge to address critical community needs. It is a county-state-federal partnership providing practical education to people, businesses and communities.