Savor the Flavor of Eating Right: National Nutrition Month Is Here!

March is National Nutrition Month! This year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages us to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.”

There are lots of ways for us to enjoy and improve the flavors of different dishes while still creating nutritionally balanced meals. One of the easiest ways to cut down on fat and sodium while enhancing the flavor of a dish is by adding a variety of herbs and spices. Here are a few of our favorites.



Cayenne is member of the red chili pepper family and is originally from French Guiana. It’s quite spicy when encountered in nature, but highly versatile in home cooking. Cayenne pepper powder is typically what we use in our kitchens, but you can also use it fresh, dried and even in oil form. Cayenne is great when used in dry rubs for meat and seafood, and it’s also delicious when added to egg dishes for breakfast to give them some heat.

Cayenne is famous for its health benefits, and was actually used as medicine in ancient times, way before it was used as a spice in cooking. Cayenne is believed to have positive effects on both the digestive and circulatory systems. If you’re new to cayenne peppers, we suggest starting off with a quarter teaspoon in a big batch of soup and a small pinch in smaller dishes like stir-fries.

We recommend trying this shakshuka recipe to get your fix of cayenne.



Cumin makes for a great staple in the spice cupboard. A pinch goes a long way in adding a sweet, smoky flavor to any dish. In the U.S., we tend to associate cumin with Mexican- and Southwestern-style cooking, but the spice is actually native to West Asia. It’s therefore widely used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, and sometimes makes its way into North African dishes as well.

With its sweet and earthy flavor, cumin pairs well with many other spices, including cinnamon, coriander and cayenne peppers. It’s a great addition to soups, stews and curries. If you’re not used to the earthy, smoky taste, we recommend starting with one teaspoon and eventually working your way up to a tablespoon.

Try this flavor-filled Moroccan stew recipe, which includes cumin and a handful of other good-for-you spices.



Did you know there are two types of oregano? There’s Mediterranean oregano on the one hand, and Mexican oregano on the other. 

Mediterranean oregano is part of the mint family and is abundant in the Mediterranean region (no surprise there, given its name). Based on its geographical origin, some species of this type of oregano are more bitter, while others are more peppery. The one we usually have in our kitchens is Italian oregano, which tends to be milder than its counterparts. It can be used fresh or dry, and makes a great addition to dishes with strong flavors, like pizzas and tomato sauces.

Alternatively, Mexican oregano is more of a cousin to lemon verbena and can be found in Central and South America. Like Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano is mild, but tends to have a citrusy flavor, and as a result pairs well with Latin American dishes like chilis and salsas.

Check out this Spanish Tapas-inspired Mussels recipe to explore oregano.



Nutmeg has become one of America’s favorite winter spices. We love it so much that it even has its own latte flavor! Little did you know, nutmeg is actually the seed of a tropical fruit that is believed to be from New Guinea. The seeds are light brown in color and packed with layers of starchy tissues inside, which can be refined into essential oils.

Nutmeg quickly loses its flavor and potency once it has been ground up. The best way to use nutmeg is to therefore grate the seeds using a microplane at home.

This spice is a chameleon in that it’s widely used in both sweet and savory dishes. It works well in dairy-based recipes like custards and panna cotta, and it’s great in baked goods such as cookies and cakes. It’s also wonderful when used to round out the flavor of savory dishes, including lasagnas, winter squashes and bitter greens.

Check out this Banana-Blueberry Muffin recipe to see how nutmeg works in baked goods.

What are your favorite spices that help you savor the flavor when cooking? Share them in the comments below!

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