Wedding stress getting you down? It's all too easy to get caught up in the planning and let your well-being (that usually means your sleep and eating habits) decline when you're burning the candle at both ends. The other thing that tends to happen when stress levels skyrocket: inflammation kicks in. Ever had a sore neck, a migraine, or other bodily ailment when you're feeling drained and overextended? Inflammation is our body's natural response to irritants, whether it's stress-related or a product of your environment.
Acute inflammation (spraining an ankle or getting a bruise) is totally normal response, albeit painful, that should go away under proper care. But low-level inflammation over a period of time is a little bit more under-the-radar and insidious—and can potentially cause or exacerbate many chronic diseases, from to diabetes to cancer. The good news is that a lot of this type of inflammation can be avoided by making changes in your diet and by steering clear of sugary drinks, processed foods, and other not-so-healthy habits like smoking and excess drinking.
In the days, weeks and months before your big day, it's a good idea to load up on healthy fruits and veggies that will keep your energy high and your stress levels down. Dark, leafy greens, Omega-3-loaded fish like wild salmon, and low-glycemic, antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries will help your body deal better with whatever is thrown at it (this includes boosting immunity during flu season). And while nutrient-rich foods are great to help with stress and inflammation, there are a few other secret weapons that might just be sitting in your panty. We're talking herbs and spices. In addition to amping up the flavors in your food (remembering that a little goes a long way), adding some of these powerhouse seasonings to your diet can really help your heath over time.
Here are some of our favorite herbs and spices to reduce inflammation and take your meals—and your health—to the next level.
See more: 6 Foods to Eat When You're Stressed
Chop up some pieces of this spicy root for an Asian-inspired Ginger Veggie Stir Fry or simmer some small pieces with honey and hot water for a soothing post-dinner drink (which is also great for sore throats). From treating upset stomachs to joint pain, this spice does it all. Plus, it works well in both savory and sweet dishes.
This brightly-colored spice has the potential to dramatically reduce inflammation in the body. It's loaded with curcumin, which is a super powerful antioxidant that can help prevent cancer. Many curries and other Indian recipes use turmeric (it's a standard spice in Ayurvedic cooking), but it can also be added to other types of foods like like this warming Spiced Golden Milk, which also highlights other savory-sweet anti-inflammatory spices like ginger and cinnamon.
A prized spice for desserts (pumpkin pie, anyone), this classic flavoring is also said to help lower blood sugar and is packed with antioxidants. We love it mixed in with savory root vegetables like these Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potatoes, which includes a blend of other flavorful spices (that also happen to be good for you).
This warming spice is another classic that tends to show up in autumn and around the holidays. It's a great complement to cinnamon in baked goods like these Medjool Date and Orange Scones, or whole cloves can be added to mulled cider for a fragrant drink that will make your whole house smell amazing. Like cinnamon, cloves are rich in antioxidants and protect against free radicals that can cause disease.
A free radical-fighting powerhouse, rosemary is a fragrant herb that's perfect for adding to cold-weather comfort food. Try it stirred into soups, stews or roasted meats like this Honey Dijon Roasted Chicken. Or sprinkle on top of pizza dough with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper for an easy, budget-friendly side dish.
Another herb that's perfect for chilly winter nights, woodsy sage adds flavor to roasted meats like these Butter Sage Pork Chops or savory sausages. It also is delicious when it's pan fried in butter with a little garlic and poured over with potato gnocchi (you really can't go wrong with that combo). In addition to being a traditional medicine for inflammation, sage helps to boost immunity and brain function.
This hot spice contains capsaicin, which helps to reduce pain in the body (it's even a component in many creams and ointments used for muscle aches). Cayenne also has compounds that help fight free radicals and keep inflammation at bay. Pair with a range of meats and other savory foods, from Sweet and Spicy Chicken to salsa.