Celebrating a World of Flavors
March is National Nutrition Month, which celebrates the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors”, and the health guides at Firefly can help you create healthy habits that celebrate your heritage and introduce you to new foods and flavors!
Honoring global food traditions
There are many “everyday” ways we can honor our global food backgrounds, as well as take part in special traditions. Here are just a few ideas:
- Cooking a dish or exchanging recipes passed down within a family or culture
- Sitting down to eat with friends or family
- Dining at immigrant-owned restaurants
- Eating together at celebrations like weddings, holidays, funerals
- Saying grace or sharing gratitude before eating a meal
- Taking part in religious traditions, such as fasting or feasting practiced by Muslim, Jewish, and other faiths
- Hunting and fishing, or foraging for fruits, vegetables, or mushrooms
- Shopping at markets offering regionally grown and harvested foods
- Attending a harvest festival celebrating seasonal bounty
- Preserving large batches of foods together
- Engaging in a beverage ritual, such as a Japanese tea ceremony or Turkish coffee
Which of the above have you been involved with recently, and how did it make you feel? Any new experiences you might like to seek out during the month of March?
Try adding some spice
Another fun - and perhaps unexpectedly healthy way - to celebrate National Nutrition Month is by cooking with new herbs and spices. This enhances not only the flavor of our meals, but also provides an array of benefits almost as colorful as the spices themselves! While adding negligible amounts of calories to a dish, herbs and spices can provide micronutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, and iron. Research suggests that the curcumin in turmeric can aid in the management of inflammation, while garlic has been found to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Many herbs and spices, such as oregano, sage, rosemary, clove, and cinnamon are excellent sources of antioxidants.
Of course, cooking with more spices and even adding citrus fruits or other acids such as vinegars to flavor our meals also provides the important benefit of reducing our reliance on sodium to enhance the taste of our food. This, along with the health benefits provided by other seasonings and the personality it brings to our dishes, improves our heart health and gives our dishes a little more “heart” as well!
Here are some examples of delicious regional spice combinations:
- Mexican: coriander, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cinnamon, chili powder
- North African: cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, turmeric, ginger, ras el hanout
- Thai: basil, cumin, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, curry powder
- Indian: Bay leaves, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, garam masala, curry powder
- Mediterranean: oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, basil, ginger
Food is Life!
We could not live without food – it is something that brings us together and shapes our identities, cultures, and society. National Nutrition Month is a chance to not only focus on ways to eat healthier, but also cultivate a healthier relationship with food.
Food traditions as simple as sitting down to eat with friends and family have been studied to show emotional benefits such as lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance use and eating disorders for adolescents. To take it a step further, preparing a meal together can strengthen the bonds of families, friends, and even colleagues.
In Okinawa, Japan, there is a mantra said before meals, “Hara hachi bu,” which reminds them to enjoy their meal until they are comfortably full. Taking this time to pause and reflect in whatever way is meaningful to you can help connect us to our food, remind us of our gratitude for having it and where it is coming from, and put more thought into the ways we are nurturing our body. This National Nutrition Month, make some time to practice a favorite food tradition – or try something new! Every tradition has to start somewhere.
Your Firefly care team is here to help
If you’re looking for support developing healthful eating and physical activity habits, your care team at Firefly is here for you! Book a visit with your care team today, or speak with your Health Guide for personalized tips. Not a member yet? Get started by signing up below, take our quiz, or call us at (855) 869-9284 to see if our continuous, coordinated care model is right for you.
Anticarcinogenic properties of garlic
Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices