Adding nutrients VS taking out food

When you’re trying to lose some weight, whether it be by following a nutrition plan or eating ‘instinctively’ it’s always good think about what you can add in, rather than what you can take out. Like anything in life, focusing in what’s missing will get you nowhere, fast. Alternatively, you can choose to add in a wider variety of vegetables, herbs and spices. My Mum always told me to eat as many different coloured vegetables as possible because this meant I’d get the most nutrients. I don’t know whether this is true, but it has amplified my love for rainbow chard! Even on a diet where you’re controlling your carbohydrate choice there are plenty of  fresh vegetables to choose from. . See my list of 20 low-carb vegetables.

Herbs and spices are the other area you can make a huge impact. A lot of people resort to sugar-free maple syrup and light sweet chilli sauce to add flavour. Or even worse just choke down bland food. Blergh. In periods higher of calorie restriction I choose to reduce my reliance on artificial sweetener and instead opt for herbs and spices to add flavour.   Not only do spices add flavour but they often have amazing medicinal properties too.  I’ve already written at length about the magical properties of garlic, but there are many other herbs and spices which are entirely delicious and have amazing health benefits. Here’s my top 5.

Sweet, earthy and rich in antioxidants, this spice is a favourite in oatmeal and sweet treats. It’s insulinogenic properties will help with fatloss too. A small amount added to chillies or curries can and an extra dimension. Both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine note that cinnamon is good for circulation, especially for people with cold extremities. They also recommend it as a digestive aid and a remedy for colds.

Popular in Indian cooking for adding a bitter garlicky flavour, this herb can be bought as seeds or leaf. Commonly found in treatments for chesty colds, fenugreek is also effective at controlling insulin levels,  aiding digestion and detoxification. The seeds can be soaked and sprouted, brewed as a tea or ground and used in curries and spice rubs. The dried  leaves a delicious way to add depth to cooked spinach.

Earthy flavoured with a vibrant orange glow, this spice is used right through Asia to add a depth of flavour. It’s what give laksa it’s bright orange glow.  The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is now being jumped on by supplement companies as the latest thing. It has been long recognised for it’s anti-inflammatory properties which in turn aid in the detoxification process. Research has also been conducted into whether it could be useful in the battle against Alzheimer’s Disease. Chinese medicine has even used it as an antidepressant. Although turmeric can be purchased in jars in the supermarket, your freshest source would be purchasing the root from an Asian grocer and grating it yourself.


Next to cinnamon, ginger is one of my favourite flavours. It’s amazing in sweet dishes, I’m a sucker for ginerbread, but also the base for all sorts of savoury ones. A paste of onion, garlic and ginger is often the way to start an Indian curry. It is well known that ginger is great as an anti-nauseant, often used for the treatment of sea-sickness. Ginger  has also been noted to help in the digestive process. Traditional Chinese medicine has been noted to use ginger tea as a treatment for menstrual cramps.

Chilli, Paprika and Cayenne:
All from the capsicum family, you’ll find one or more of these in many fat-burner supplements. Smoked paprika is the most amazing way to add a rich barbecue flavour to grilled chicken breast and chilli and cayenne will add fire to any dish. Chilli and cayenne is often rated in hu, which stands for heat units as ranked on the Scoville Scale. The higher the heat units the spicier the pepper and the higher the metabolic effects. The brave can make cayenne tea by dissolving 1 teaspoon of cayenne powder in a mug of boiling water along with some lemon. Cayenne has been noted to improve stomach hcl levels and in  a study by the Journal of the American Medical Assoc., researchers used tiny video cameras to examine volunteers’ stomach linings after both bland meals and meals liberally spiced with jalapeno peppers. The researchers found no difference in stomach conditions, concluding that “ingestion of highly spiced meals by normal individuals is not associated with gastrointestinal damage.” so the old concern of chilli causing an upset stomach can be laid to rest.

About Michelle

Michelle is passionate about showing people how easy it is to prepare food that is healthy and packed full of flavour. She has just completed her first recipe book, Healthy Helpings: fast food for fit physiques. She began sharing her love of food in 2007, when she produced two series of the online cooking show ‘Healthy Helpings TV’, making fast food healthy and healthy food fast. In 2008 she competed in bodybuilding as a novice figure shaping competitor and she remains passionate about physique sports. She was a 2009 Australian Masterchef semi-finalist, and contributes articles to Oxygen Magazine Australia. Michelle lives with her husband on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, where she loves to search out new ingredients and food ideas from local farmers markets, health food shops and ethnic grocers, and take her two dogs on long rambles through the vineyards. Find out more about Michelle's book