6 Easy Ways to Make Healthy Food Taste Better

These nutrient-packed spices, seeds, and superfoods will take your balanced meals from so-so to super satisfying (and slimming).

April 13, 2015

Herbs and spices perk up the flavor of your meals and add extra nutritional value, including antioxidants and antimicrobials for no (or very few) calories or milligrams of sodium. 

More: 10 All-You-Can-Eat Foods


And not only will flavor enhancers make nutritious foods taste better, but even the aroma of spices can help you eat 5 to 10 percent less per meal, according to a recent study in the journal Flavour. "People may unconsciously take smaller bites to regulate the amount of flavor they experience," says study author Rene de Wijk, PhD, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Your heart may benefit from a flavor boost, too: People who tossed 2 ”tablespoons of seasonings -- such as black pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, paprika, cinnamon, and oregano -- into a meal had 30 percent lower levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat) afterward than those who didn’t add a zing to their dishes. That’s because certain spices may slow the digestion of fat, says study author Sheila G. West, PhD.

More: 13 Spices That Keep You Slim and Healthy 

While they’re not herbs and spices, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and even crushed-up seaweed qualify as flavor enhancers. They add nutritional value, texture, and flavor. Want to start benefiting from tastier, more slimming meals? Sprinkle your favorite healthy foods with one of these 6 powerhouse flavor enhancers

Black Pepper
As mundane as black pepper may seem, it actually packs some metabolic punch. Piperine -- the substance in b lack pepper that c an i rritate your nose -- has been shown in animal studies to delay gastric emptying (so you feel fuller longer) and stimulate calorie burning, according to Dutch researchers.

Try it: On anything! Add it to stir-fries, roasted vegetables, meats, or even salads.

Cayenne and Chili Powder
The spicy capsaicin in cayenne revs up your body’s internal furnace and keeps your insulin levels in check after a meal.

Try it: Sprinkle on a hard-boiled egg, salad, or homemade kale chips.

Chia Seeds
One tablespoon of chia seeds packs as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, plus bone-building calcium and heart-healthy omega-3s. They’re also a good source of iron, which many women don’t get enough of.

Try it: On cereal, salads, and soups, or use it to thicken pudding and stir-fries. Chia seeds absorb water, creating a gel-like consistency.

More: While-You-Sleep Chia Oatmeal Recipe 

This antioxidant-packed spice may help ward off the pounds by keeping your blood sugar in check, reducing your odds of storing fat while also curbing your appetite.

Try it: Stir into your coffee or on top of oatmeal or frozen yogurt.

Crushed Seaweed
Sure, it looks a little like fish food, but this stuff is nutritionally stacked. Seaweed is loaded with minerals, including calcium, and it’s low in calories. And it’s naturally salty, so you get that flavor with all of the minerals.

Try it: Sprinkle over a salad or to season vegetables or quinoa.

Ground Flaxseed
Flax is packed with fiber and ALA, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Go for the ground-up kind: “When you grind flaxseeds, you get more benefit, because if you just eat them plain, they can go right through your system,” says Glassman. Ground flaxseed is also a dynamite source of lignans, plant estrogens that may soothe monthly mood swings and help prevent overeating. And the fatty acids in flaxseed help hydrate your skin, according to German researchers.

Try it: Add to whole wheat pancakes or healthy muffins, or mix with whole wheat bread crumbs as a coating for chicken.