A Runner’s Guide to Using Herbs While Cooking
While there are definitely contentious debates within the running community about which type of diet is best for runners — ranging from low carb, to high carb, to vegan, to low fat, to high fat, and all other variations in between — one thing that generally most everyone can agree upon is the importance of consuming whole foods more often than not. Eating foods in their whole states allows the foods to retain as much of their nutritional profile as possible, and generally speaking, foods that have come directly from the earth offer better nutritional profiles than those that come from laboratories.
Does that inherently mean that eating a primarily whole foods diet will be lacking in flavor, then? Absolutely not! Whole foods have their own unique taste and texture profiles, and runners who eat them can also choose to “dress them up” by using an assortment of herbs.
Below, we’ll explore some herb options that runners can use while cooking whole foods as part of their balanced diet. In no way is this list exhaustive — there are probably thousands of different types of herbs out there, all over the world — but it’s a great start to get you inspired and in the kitchen straight away.
A runner’s guide to using herbs while cooking includes the following options:
- Curry powder. Curry powder is a bit of a catch-all type of ingredient that is often used to describe a spice that is a mixture of many different spices. Curry powders can have flavors that are very spicy, somewhat sweet, somewhat smoky or even a mixture of all of these. Curry powder is versatile, too, as runners could use it during the cooking process of anything from eggs, to meat, to potatoes, or vegetables. Additionally, runners could “coat” some of their foods in curry powder before cooking. Curry powder can even be a great addition to snacks, such as popcorn, too. Some studies also suggest that curry powder can play a pivotal role in reducing inflammation, preventing cancer or Alzheimer’s, and in aiding digestion, among others.
- Ginger. The humble ginger root, or its sister, powdered and crushed ginger, is a force to be reckoned with and can be a runner’s best friend in the kitchen. If you’re cooking with fresh ginger, be sure to peel the root before consuming it. You can then julienne cut it and toss it into stir-frys, soups, or smoothies, or you can dice it as well. Ginger has a lot of homeopathic and “natural” remedies as well, ranging from being used to treat burns to being used to treat nausea. The research is inconclusive as to whether consuming ginger will help alleviate muscle aches and strains following hard exercise, but no matter because it’s still delicious to eat!
- Turmeric. Turmeric is super trendy and popular right now, though it’s been around in your spice aisle for longer than you think. People are now buying turmeric capsules to consume as part of their daily multivitamin and supplements routine, but fortunately, you can instead just cook with it and still reap its (delicious) benefits. Turmeric has gotten a lot of fame recently because its active ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to have “potent anti-inflammatory properties,” with research suggesting that turmeric may help treat symptoms related to stomach ulcers, Crohn’s, and IBS. Turmeric is considered a cousin to ginger and can have an intense, bitter flavor, so it’s suggested that you use small amounts and experiment with it first. It’ll turn your foods a nice yellowish-orangeish color and can be tossed into just about anything, including pancakes, smoothies, rice dishes, eggs, vegetables, teas, soups, stews, and macaroni and cheese dishes, among many others.
- Rosemary. Some people really enjoy growing their own herbs and cooking with them, so if this describes you, consider rosemary your new best friend. This herb feels like pine needles but definitely doesn’t taste like it! It’s aromatic and pungent and can be easily included in just about any dish — especially vegetables and potatoes — to bring it to Next Level Awesomeness. If you don’t want to grow your own, you can also buy it dried in your spice aisle, but growing it really is pretty effortless. Aside from vegetables and potatoes, rosemary’s “lemon-pine” flavor also lends well to focaccia bread and tomatoes, too.
- Basil. Finally, just like with rosemary, if you enjoy growing your own herbs and cooking with them, basil can be an excellent herb to include in your cooking repertoire. Some studies suggest that basil offers its consumers anti-aging properties and may even help to fight cancer, too. Perhaps the most well-known recipe for basil that runners can make is their own homemade pesto, which they can then toss on top of a burger, a salad, or with a pasta dish. The opportunities are endless, and even including basil leaves in your tap water can be a great pick-me-up, since it often has strong lemon and lime undertones.
These are just a few of the many different types of herbs that runners can use in their cooking repertoires. Not only do all these different herbs offer different health benefits, but they all also confer a delicious range of taste profiles. These herbs are versatile in which foods they can augment, too, as they can be included in anything from smoothies, to burgers, to vegetables, to potatoes, or even in some desserts and sweet treats.
While it can be really frustrating to have so much conflicting information out there how runners “should” be eating for maximum health benefits, minimally we know the importance of eating whole foods, and including herbs in the mix can make a whole foods-rich diet even more enjoyable. Do some experimenting in your own kitchen and see what you can concoct with these ingredients; your stomach — and your running! — will be glad you did!