The best spices for your health

For many of us, eating healthy can be quite the challenge. Yes, we know things like salt, sugar, and butter are not necessarily good for our bodies, but let's face it: many of the superfoods out there aren't synonymous with great taste. We're looking at you, kale.

Luckily, food doesn't have to taste bland to be healthy. In fact, there's a plethora of herbs and spices you can use to add some major flavor to your cooking. What's even better is many of them actually have a ton health benefits. As nutrition adviser Wendy Bazilian, RD, told Fitness Magazine: "Technically, spices are vegetables in concentrated form. Like veggies, they contain thousands of healthy phytonutrient compounds, including antioxidants."

Taste and nutritional value? Now we're talking. Here are seven healthy spices to add your cooking arsenal, stat.

Ginger

A staple ingredient in Asian and Indian cuisine, ginger has also served medicinal purposes for centuries. In fact, ginger has long been used by cultures around the world to treat nausea and other digestive problems. Some studies have also shown that ginger may help decrease the risk of certain health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

Ginger root can be consumed fresh, and is an easy way to add flavor to soups, rice, or other meat dishes without adding in extra calories. In fact, steep a couple of slices of fresh ginger in hot water and add some lemon and honey for a delicious ginger tea.

Turmeric

Even though it's been around for centuries, turmeric has gained quite a bit of popularity in recent years. Some have even said this spice is "the most effective nutritional supplement in existence."

Turmeric has been used to treat everything from liver disease to ringworm. It's also a natural anti-inflammatory that, according to the American Cancer Society, has proven in studies to shrink tumors and boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

Reap the health benefits of turmeric by adding it to your soups, rice, or vegetable side dishes. You can even blend some into your morning smoothie for a healthy treat.

Garlic

It turns out that garlic isn't just good for warding off vampires. In fact, this plant was used in ancient Greece to treat an array of medical conditions.

A close relative to shallots and leeks, garlic is rich in fiber, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C. Garlic has also been known to boost the immune system, with one study finding it reduced the risk of cold and flu by up to 61 percent.

What's even better: it tastes delicious. These days, garlic is one of the most popular cooking ingredients, used in everything from savory pasta sauces to juicy steaks and chicken. In that case, bring on the garlic.

Cinnamon

Oh, cinnamon. How we love you in our Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Lucky for us, we don't have to wait until the leaves turn to enjoy the health benefits — and, may we add, delicious taste — of this favorite fall spice.

Rich in antioxidants that protect the body against harmful free radicals, cinnamon is a great addition to your morning oatmeal, tea, or favorite fruit. Cinnamon apples, anyone?

And if you still need another reason to add more cinnamon to your life: this spice has been known to lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

Rosemary

Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is a fragrant herb closely related to mint and lavender. In ancient times, rosemary was used to reduce muscle pain and boost the immune system.

Besides being a popular cooking ingredient in dishes like chicken, rosemary is also widely used by those who enjoy essential oils. In fact, certain studies show that components in rosemary may help improve memory and concentration.

Chili powder

Spicy food lovers, rejoice. There may be health benefits to cooking with all that chili powder, after all. Made from the chili pepper, a native to Central and South America, this spice is known for its hot and zesty flavor, which makes it a popular ingredient in tacos, enchiladas, stews, and casserole dishes.

Chili powder is a great source of Vitamin A and C, as well as beta carotenoids, which block the production of free radicals that cause things like rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Chili powder also stimulates endorphins, acting as a natural pain killer.

Oregano

Hugely popular in Italian cuisine, oregano is a wonderfully versatile herb for both cooking and therapeutic purposes.

Oregano contains carvacol and thymol, both powerful antimicrobials. In fact, studies have shown that oils from the oregano could effectively kill Candida and the superbug MRSA. It's also been found to effectively treat upper respiratory infections, UTIs, yeast infections, and nail fungus.

Oregano can be used dry or fresh. Plants are extremely easy to grow indoors, giving you a year-round supply of all its healthy benefits.