The Role of Herbs and Spices in Health

okkra, calamari, spices, and black beans

I love throwing plenty of herbs and spices into what I cook. Not only do they taste so good, they offer so many heath benefits and they stimulate digestion and help with weight-loss.

In clinic I’m often encouraging women to eat more vegetables specific to their needs. For me that encouragement always goes hand in hand with food that tastes good, so that healthy eating becomes delicious eating too.

The way I use herbs and spices depends on flavour and also I think about the health benefit.

Immunity Boosters :

As an immunity booster I go immediately to ginger, garlic and turmeric. I throw these spices into so many of my dishes. In my 8 week program, which is all about eating for female hormone balance and vitality, I use a lot of these immune-boosting spices as they are also anti-inflammatory. This means they help to improve hormone balance as well (and great for the skin). Did you know just one teaspoon of dried ginger per day, eaten with food, has been shown in studies to help alleviate menstrual pain.

Currently there are a number of studies being done to see if herbs and spices can be effective in stopping cancer cells from growing. Spices such as chilli/cayenne, turmeric, cumin, ginger, black pepper and saffron are showing really interesting results in the latest research. In some research about breast cancer the active ingredients in ginger, garlic and cumin are being looked at for their potential benefits.

Gut Health :

I’m very focused on gut health and really zoom in on trying to make that the best functioning organ it can be! So often I use herbs and spices, as well as other foods, to bring healing along. As an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal boost to the gastrointestinal tract I like to use cloves, oregano, thyme, garlic and rosemary. My online program also focuses on the gut, as well as weight-loss and vitality, using a balance of herbs and spices to help keep the healing and taste sensations going throughout.

Anti inflammatory:

One of my favourite go-to spices is Moroccan Ras El Hanout because it tastes so great and offers anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and blood glucose balancing spices all in one blend. I often add it, along with some extra virgin olive oil, to softly cooked onions; garlic and wilted spinach. Stirred through with smashed chickpeas and roasted crushed almonds. The spices lift this simple dish to another level of deliciousness.

I wanted share you one of my favorite recipes so you can see for yourself how easy they are to make and what wonderful flavours you can expect from my cook books and online training programs. Spicy Calamari with Okra and Black Beans (extract from The Happy Hormone Cookbook by Emma)

Spicy Calamari with Okra and black beans:

Below is another favourite recipe of mine, Spicy Calamari with Okra, which uses some of these spices. This recipe has so much going for it – giving the body protein found in the sustainable calamari and black beans, great anti-inflammatory benefits in the avocado, olive oil, spices and calamari (yes calamari contains some omega-3 oils) and gut-loving fibre in the black beans, avocado and okra … and the spices make it taste great!

You can join me in my October 8-week programme full of delicious healthy recipes for balance and vitality. Read more about it here

Spicy Calamari with Okra, Avocado and Black Beans
Serves 2 but can be easily multiplied for more.


240g squid or calamari, prepared for eating by the seafood supplier
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 long green chilli, split, deseeded and finely chopped or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 big pinch salt
1 big pinch freshly ground pepper
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp smoked paprika (must be smoked)
2 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp dried thyme

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely sliced
175g okra, roughly sliced diagonally
200g (7oz) cherry tomatoes
140g (5oz) cooked black beans (cook your own or canned)
Pinch salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp feta
½ lime, cut into 2 wedges
Handful coriander leaves, washed and chopped
½ large avocado, flesh chopped into small pieces


  • Cut the calamari into large chunks or thick rings and toss with garlic, chilli, salt, pepper, coriander, paprika and oregano and 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • Leave marinating in the fridge whilst you cook the vegetables.
  • In a large frying pan/skillet add the 2 tablespoons of oil, okra and onions.
  • Fry on medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the onions have softened, after about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes.
  • Cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and break up. Then add the black beans to warm.
  • Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Divide the vegetable and black beans onto 2 serving plates.
  • Wipe out the pan and heat on high, adding the calamari once the pan is hot.
  • Sear the calamari until it is just cooked and firmed up, about 1 – 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Place on top of the vegetables, squeeze over the lime juice, crumble over the feta, and scatter the coriander and avocado.
Chef, nutritionist, foodie, author fan of spices

Emma Ellice-Flint

An article written by Emma Ellice-Flint, qualified nutritionist, former chef and obsessive herb and spice lover! You can join her 8 week online vitality program here