Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices

| 1 min read

Chef Kristin Podolinski Chuck Gaidica and Grace Derocha



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by culinary expert, Kristin Podolinski and Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss the many benefits of adding herbs and spices to your diet.
“Here’s what I think people don’t realize… herbs and spices, using them allows you to add flavor without extra. Whether it be extra salt, extra fats, extra calories or extra sugar… Oftentimes, fat, sugar, and salt are used for flavor, but you could get that in something so much better.” – Grace Derocha
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • The difference between herbs and spices
  • Shelf-life and checking expiration dates
  • The importance of proper storage
  • Surprising dietary benefits
  • Why they’re a healthier alternative to traditional seasoning
  • Herb-friendly meals and drinks

Listen on

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 36. Coming up, we discuss the health benefits of herbs and spices.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is a podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits that we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we’ll sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and others who will help us do a dive into topics covering nutrition, fitness, and so much more.
Chuck Gaidica: In this episode, again, we’re talking about herbs, Herb. Remember that? That’s an old commercial. Probably makes me feel old. Herbs and spices, how we use them, what are the health benefits? We know we can get great flavors, but which ones do we use to get those flavors?
Chuck Gaidica: So joining us again today, a recognizable name and face if you’re watching us online, Grace Derocha, who’s a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It is great to see you as always.
Grace Derocha: Always good to see you.
Chuck Gaidica: Thank you. And we have to shout out to your kids. You’re a mom. You’re cooking. You’re doing TV, radio, soon film, and stage. I don’t know what’s coming next.
Grace Derocha: If only.
Chuck Gaidica: I see you in a lot of places including all kinds of social media, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, yeah. I feel very lucky and blessed to get to spread the word of health and wellness.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, we’re so glad that you’re here.
Chuck Gaidica: And, joining us today as well, a culinary expert, Kristin Podolinski. She is here. She was a graduate of Schoolcraft’s Culinary Arts program. She stayed there for a while, and after a while, on purpose, they kicked you out, right? They said, “Go! Go!”
Chef Kristin: Sadly. Fly the coup.
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Chef Kristin: Go do what we taught you to do.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, get your wings. And, what does that mean? Because they have such a fantastic program.
Chef Kristin: They do, and they need to make room for other people to do those things too.
Chuck Gaidica: So, that’s what it is really, right?
Chef Kristin: Yes. Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: It does make you go out and into the world.
Chef Kristin: It does, and they try to “employ” students versus folks that have already graduated from the program. So, I was allowed to stick around for a couple years and help out a lot of chefs and students in many different kitchens and many different ways so I was sad to go, but, as it turns out, my life took a really positive spin and turn afterwards.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, and that’s called Simple Kitchen, right?
Chef Kristin: The Simple Kitchen. Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: And, what is that?
Chef Kristin: So The Simple Kitchen, right now, is a place where folks can come and learn to cook and just gain confidence in the kitchen, primarily students that are between the ages… Actually, we just started pre-K classes last fall, so that’s really taking off. So, it’s really ages between three all the way up to teenagers. Parents love to have their kids come even before they go off to college and learn some skills to survive in the dorms and apartments on college campuses.
Chef Kristin: And then we offer adult classes too as well, but I’m a former elementary education teacher, so my wheelhouse is really those pre-K through, I’d say, 8th, 9th, 10th graders.
Chuck Gaidica: If you could involve kids in anything that doesn’t include a controller or a video game, right?
Chef Kristin: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s a bonus every step of the way.
Chef Kristin: And, I tell all the parents they learn how to do dishes.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: That’s awesome.
Chef Kristin: So, life skills all around.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, for sure.
Chuck Gaidica: Well Grace, Your Chefness, we’ve got to discuss this because some people only are exposed to herbs and spices when they get that little wrap thing for the holidays, that it’s got spices in there from 1962. You know what I mean? You don’t even know what the date is on these things sometimes, but let’s dig into this just a little bit.
Chuck Gaidica: So, what is the difference between a spice and an herb?
Chef Kristin: Well, herbs tend to grow in gardens and on farms, and you tend to use them pretty quickly, although they can be dried. Spices are more seeds and bark of different plants that can be dried and ground for future use.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, I think herbs are leafy more, right?
Chef Kristin: Yeah, right. That’s a-
Grace Derocha: And then the other parts would be spices: seeds, roots, bark. That’s kind of like how I think of it. Yeah.
Chef Kristin: Right. Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, and so you mean that when we get some of that stuff that’s a spice, that really is ground up bark or something else we’re sprinkling in. Yeah.
Chef Kristin: Cinnamon is a bark, and it is ground.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: I mean, the cinnamon stick. You can kind of see where that came from.
Chef Kristin: Right, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: So I was joking about how we get these things as gifts, and sometimes as parents, that’s what kids see and they’re just walking through a mall or something. But what is the way we should be looking at the shelf life for a spice and herb, especially the ones that are dried? Maybe not something you’re trying to give a little haircut to-
Grace Derocha: I feel like Kristin taught me this so I’m going to let her-
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, good.
Grace Derocha: … because she reminded me and taught me about this and I forgot.
Chef Kristin: Right, well, so I think it’s really common for people to go to the grocery store, stock up on a lot of dried herbs and spices, put them in their pantry, and just think, “Okay, I’m good until it runs out.” However, there is a shelf life for all of those herbs and spices, and they lose their flavor, their potency, and they can just kind of lose all of the things that you bought them for over time.
Chef Kristin: And so I think going through your pantry, checking those dates, because there should be a date on all of your herbs and spices, every six months. Some of them can last over that time, like one, maybe three years, but you should definitely be going through your spice cupboards continually and checking up on those.
Chuck Gaidica: So as a novice, there is stuff that still smells good to me. If I open up an oregano, to be honest, I have no idea the date. I’m telling you, I’m learning something right now. I don’t ever check a date. So, okay, now I’ll put a Magic Marker note on one or make sure I circle what’s on there, right?
Chef Kristin: It’s a good idea.
Chuck Gaidica: If it still smells like it’s supposed to, it has an aroma, does that indicate it’s not wonky? It’s good?
Chef Kristin: That’s a good sign. It’s a real good sign. Because it can lose that flavor and that potency. And I will probably throw one of my family members under the bus. When I go to someone in my family member’s house, and I see a spice container from a store that no longer is around…
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, wow. Farmer Jack.
Grace Derocha: Right? Yeah.
Chef Kristin: A&P.
Grace Derocha: A&P. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Come on.
Chef Kristin: A&P.
Grace Derocha: Stop.
Chef Kristin: I’m not joking. I’m like, “Okay, wait… ” Throw this away.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Well, I asked Kristin this. I guess I didn’t realize there was an expiration date on that. And I cook. Maybe that’s why, because I cook a lot, that I don’t-
Chef Kristin: Right. And you’re going through those-
Grace Derocha: Yeah, I’m going through it pretty quickly but, so after she taught me that, I literally went home and I was like, “Oh my gosh, it does say expired.”
Chef Kristin: Well, and it’s tempting to go to Costco and buy the giant paprika and paprika’s one that you’re not going to be-
Grace Derocha: And you only put that on your deviled eggs for color.
Chef Kristin: Right. Right.
Chuck Gaidica: Right. Well you know, there’s another part of this. I was thinking about this getting ready for today. I think sometimes, I know I do, probably others, you see something like a dried parsley, like oregano, right? And you think because you’re sprinkling it into the pasta sauce, well, it’s like a freeze-dried thing. It’s just going to come back to life when the water hits, it, right?
Grace Derocha: That’s true. Yeah.
Chef Kristin: And it is true. That is absolutely true, but it does lose its potency over time.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Like the flavor, the smell, even the health benefits.
Chef Kristin: Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, let’s talk about those because I think the coloration and what you get in a dish, paprika, chicken, or whatever, that makes perfect sense. When you’re talking about aroma, taste, makes perfect sense. But what about health benefits. What should we be thinking about with all these varied spices and herbs?
Chef Kristin: Well, and I’m going to defer, I think, over to the health benefits person.
Chuck Gaidica: You two are so polite. This is such… Welcome to NPR. Good times.
Grace Derocha: No. So here’s what I think people don’t realize. I think they get a little bit nervous to use different herbs and spices because one, they’ve either never used them before. Two, they don’t know what it goes well with. We’re going to talk about that too, I’m sure, but a few things. One, herbs and spices, using them allows you to add flavor without extra. Whether it be extra salt, extra fats, extra calories, extra sugar, because oftentimes, fat, sugar, salt are used for flavor, but you could get that in something so much better.
Chuck Gaidica: Well isn’t that why somebody invented Mrs. Dash or one of those products where you can substitute that for salt and bring-
Grace Derocha: Herbs and spices. Yup. Exact. See? Good job, Mrs. Dash. I wish I thought of that.
Chuck Gaidica: Who is she?
Chef Kristin: She’s a great gal.
Grace Derocha: I don’t know but I wish I was her.
Chuck Gaidica: And so if I’m doing this for my health and the healthful benefits, what could I really be getting out of that great pot of soup or pasta sauce or something I’m making?
Grace Derocha: Oh my gosh. So many different things depending on what you’re using. More vitamins and minerals, more fiber, different antioxidants, immune-boosting properties, good digestive properties for gut health. Just so much more than salt has to offer. Plus, if you are trying to avoid chronic conditions that might run in your family like hypertension or Type 2 diabetes, using these flavorful herbs and spices will allow you to decrease salt, decrease blood pressure and live healthier.
Chuck Gaidica: So whether you’re going Krogering or going to a different kind of food market, it seems to me that there are sections now, it’s got to be right next to the mushrooms because that’s what I’ve got in my brain, but you can pick up fresh herbs and spices or maybe it’s more herbs, to your point, whether it’s in season or not. Am I getting more benefit if I can find something green that I can just cut myself and throw into the pot?
Grace Derocha: Yes, but it’s not like the other ones that are dry are not giving you any, you know what I mean?
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, okay.
Chef Kristin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Grace Derocha: So oftentimes you think of when things are more fresh, fresher I was about to say-
Chuck Gaidica: Closer to alive, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes. That you get a little bit more bang for your buck with it, but you still get some. I’m trying to think of it. Oh, like ginger. So ginger roots versus ginger spice, you’re still going to get some benefit from both of them but ginger root is a little more impactful when it comes to helping with digestion and gut health and immune-boosting properties.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay.
Grace Derocha: But still helpful in the spice.
Chuck Gaidica: But garlic powder versus real garlic? I mean if you had to make a choice, if you could make the choice and you have time to go buy it?
Grace Derocha: Always real garlic.
Chef Kristin: Always. Always. And everyone asks me on that note, about the jarred garlic.
Grace Derocha: Pre-minced, yes.
Chef Kristin: And I just say, “It’s a no-no.”
Chuck Gaidica: Why? What do you mean?
Chef Kristin: I just think it loses its flavor over time, and it sits in that jar. You don’t know how long ago that was packaged, and it can get some pretty funky flavors going on. And so…
Chuck Gaidica: Oh interesting.
Grace Derocha: I know. So I sometimes cheat and use that even though I know I’m not supposed to. But I do agree with Kristin, like using fresh. Fresh is best.
Chef Kristin: Garlic always.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay, so again in my guy brain, I think the dry stuff in the cabinet is the first or maybe third choice. The stuff in the fridge and the jar is right up the middle and then if I had time to get the real stuff, I’d go get it. Am I wrong? Is that an okay way to assign value to this? You were saying avoid the stuff in the jar altogether.
Chef Kristin: Well, I think anything just, even in general, processed is going to go through a bunch of different steps to get to that endpoint. And again-
Grace Derocha: Foreshadowing the next podcast. Ooh. Processed food.
Chef Kristin: So I think, really, right. If you can just take that garlic clove out of your pantry and use it right away and you know how it’s being prepared, that’s the most favorable.
Grace Derocha: I agree and I think it’s tricky though because sometimes, so I get this question with fruits too, sometimes with fruits or the spice ginger or ground garlic, they might have taken it, processed it but it was at peak so then that spice might be more peak than the jar that was… You know what I mean?
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, I see. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Same thing with like fresh fruits versus frozen fruits versus canned fruits. Oftentimes, people think fresh, canned, frozen but really, the frozen is pulled at peak and flash-frozen right away.
Chuck Gaidica: Flash-frozen. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: And then it’s closer to what came from the tree or the bush so either way, use some.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, no matter which one you’re reaching for. Now I said I go into the cabinet, which I do. I just open up the cabinet and there are all the spices. But I do know that people probably to this day still have what looks like the K-Cup wheel of the spice rack thing that spins on the-
Grace Derocha: The lazy Susan.
Chuck Gaidica: Is it okay to leave it out exposed to daylight and light in your kitchen or not?
Chef Kristin: Great question. No.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay.
Chef Kristin: So on your windowsill is not a great place to store any kinds of things like that.
Grace Derocha: Please don’t do it.
Chef Kristin: Even olive oils out of the sunlight. Absolutely in a dark, moisture-free cupboard.
Chuck Gaidica: The best you can, right?
Chef Kristin: Yes.
Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay, and that means for all of them, every single kind of spice, everything’s…
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chef Kristin: Yes. Yes.
Grace Derocha: Oils, spices…
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Do you yourself or do you know anybody that’s actually going to grow herbs and cut them and dry them.
Chef Kristin: Absolutely. Right here.
Chuck Gaidica: Really?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, us too.
Chef Kristin: Both of us.
Chuck Gaidica: Both of you? Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, we both do.
Chef Kristin: I get a little sad in the fall when my herb garden, I have two large herb gardens, and it pains me when I need in the dead of winter, when I need to go to the grocery store and buy that basil or the mints or… It’s just because it’s so plentiful in your backyard and that… However, some of the herbs will winter over. I just leave them, mostly my oregano, my thyme, those are pretty hardy. The rosemary-
Grace Derocha: I was going to say my rosemary too.
Chef Kristin: They can winter over and I use them. I’ll go, I’ll tromp out in the snow and-
Chuck Gaidica: Come on.
Chef Kristin: I do. Yes.
Grace Derocha: I feel even my green onion will do sometimes.
Chef Kristin: Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Chef Kristin: So I just let them be. Now, however, my mints, my basil, some of the soft herbs, cilantro, dill, those are all gone and buh-bye. But-
Grace Derocha: I have tried to bring them in the house and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It just depends on their… They’re moody. They’re a little moody.
Chef Kristin: They are. And if you don’t keep up they can go to flower, they can go to seed, and then they’re kind of-
Chuck Gaidica: However, I’ve been in people’s kitchens who they’ve got what looks to me like a Chia Pet head so sitting in the window, and they grab it and they get a scissors and it’s like they’re putting it right into the dish. So they are growing some of it. I don’t know what it was.
Chef Kristin: It’s great. Yes.
Grace Derocha: Yes. Absolutely.
Chef Kristin: For sure.
Chuck Gaidica: And my brother, I think I’ve mentioned this in a previous podcast, he’s up north, like Cadillac area, he’s got two little side boxes on the side of the house covered in plastic with these special little things that raise and close.
Chef Kristin: Yeah. Ooh.
Grace Derocha: Oh. He’s fancy.
Chuck Gaidica: He’s growing herbs into the winter but what a benefit. So he still traipses in the snow but these little mini greenhouse things are keeping him supplied.
Chef Kristin: That’s fabulous.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s really a cool idea.
Grace Derocha: Well, and I feel like Kristin also taught me how to… I’m going to let her speak to it, but how to dry them properly.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah.
Chef Kristin: So there’s a few different ways you can do that. The key is to put them in a space where they can have a lot of room to breathe and have air because it can create mold if there’s any moisture in there. So either, I’m trying to reduce the paper in my kitchen so, trying to stay away more from paper towels too much, but a clean dish towel just on a cookie sheet. Spread them out. You can also tie them in bunches or rubber bands and hang them and then really, the best way after you remove them from the stem, is not to crush them until you use them. So just put those leaves into a jar, seal it up airtight back in that pantry and it’s really easy.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, I did that with basil last year and it worked.
Chef Kristin: Yeah, it’s great. There’s so many great ways to preserve the herbs because-
Grace Derocha: I think the key with that is that making sure you let it dry fully because I have made the mistake of pulling too soon and then putting in the airtight and there’s still a little moisture and then it was moldy.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah. So what would that be? Days? Just a couple of days?
Chef Kristin: Depending on the herb because some of those soft herbs like cilantro and parsley and dill-
Grace Derocha: It holds a lot of water.
Chef Kristin: Yeah. They’re very, very water-filled and so it could be up to a week.
Chuck Gaidica: So as long as it’s a dry towel or whatever, it’s not going to mold right there on the counter.
Chef Kristin: Right. Just make sure they’re not clumped together too much. Spread apart. I had someone once give me a whole big branch of bay leaves and I was like, “Jackpot.”
Grace Derocha: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Chef Kristin: So I dried them and I’m still using them to this day.
Grace Derocha: That’s so cool.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh that’s nice.
Chef Kristin: It’s very exciting to me.
Grace Derocha: I love that.
Chef Kristin: In my world.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, we know what to get you for the holidays.
Chef Kristin: I know.
Chuck Gaidica: Here’s a branch.
Chef Kristin: Thank you.
Chuck Gaidica: All right. Let’s talk about a few specifics and then I’ll shoot you some names and you tell me what they’re good for and what they will help us feel good about. You know, how they’ll be helpful.
Chuck Gaidica: What about rosemary? What does that do for us because we hear about that in a lot of recipes.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, so rosemary’s great. There is some research that has shown it can help strengthen memory, promote hair growth.
Chuck Gaidica: All right, so rosemary. I’m going to go home and start putting it on my head to make sure that the hair is-
Chef Kristin: I think you’re good.
Grace Derocha: You’re great.
Chef Kristin: I think you’re good.
Chuck Gaidica: Huh? Is it all right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: You can’t see the Velcro? We’re good. Okay.
Grace Derocha: What is your favorite rosemary dish? I’m going backtrack.
Chef Kristin: I’m a big marinating person. I love to walk out to my garden, see what I have plentiful amounts of, what I need to trim back a little bit. I just get a glass dish. Maybe I’m doing chicken. Maybe I’m doing a flank steak. Maybe I want to make a salad dressing and I’ll do the rosemary, garlic, some lime… whatever kind of acid, lemon juice, lime juice, in a vinegar-
Chuck Gaidica: Is it a marinade or is this a crust you’re talking about. What?
Chef Kristin: I usually do a marinade.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay.
Chef Kristin: And I might do a dry rub before I put it on the grill. It’s just so flavorful.
Grace Derocha: It is.
Chef Kristin: And you want to just kind of break up those herbs or bruise them a little bit when you put them in any kind of a marinade so that releases those oils and flavors and just stick it back in your fridge and few hours later you’ve got a really flavorful meal. It’s right in your backyard.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you have a favorite rosemary dish?
Grace Derocha: I love making rosemary potatoes. It’s like one of my… The whole family likes it. It’s super easy and just that flavor from the rosemary. It’s making me hungry.
Chuck Gaidica: Are they red skins? Is that what you mean?
Grace Derocha: Yeah or different colors like fingerlings, purples, yeah, yellow, whatever I have but so good. So easy.
Chef Kristin: It pairs really well with potatoes.
Grace Derocha: I’ve made rosemary scones before.
Chef Kristin: Oh. I’ve made rosemary shortbread.
Grace Derocha: Oh yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, that would be similar.
Chef Kristin: Similar, yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: But is that going to have a sweetness to it or not?
Chef Kristin: So you can get into the sweet and savory, right? You can mix it up a little bit.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Playing with that. I love that.
Chef Kristin: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: All right. Let’s talk about mint because we can talk about mint tea, mint juleps. I mean, there are things that a lot of people would think of.
Grace Derocha: Mint julep.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, yeah, you know, Kentucky Derby time. It’s a stalwart, right? But what else? What else does mint do for us?
Grace Derocha: So health-wise, it can help improve IBS symptoms, so good for gut health because there’s those soothing and cooling properties and then obviously, like nasal passages or sinuses can help kind of clear that up if you’re using it in food or drinks.
Chef Kristin: Or teas. And I think in the summertime just using that without even cooking it, just fresh on a little caprese. Recently I’ve done a peach caprese so it’s like that mozzarella, the peach and then a little oil and that fresh mint.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh wow. And I need to bruise the mint as you’ve now taught me. I need to, right? But I mean to release that flavor from that leaf.
Grace Derocha: You’re supposed to smack it.
Chuck Gaidica: Really?
Chef Kristin: It’s true. That is true.
Grace Derocha: So even if you’re making, sorry, I’m going into alcohol, but mojitos or mint juleps, I use mint often in fruit salad. That’s like, my kids. It’s a joke with them. “Mom’s putting gum in our…” It’s not gum but they love it and they know they get to come and slap.
Chef Kristin: Smack. Smack.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow. What did the mint ever do to you? I mean…
Grace Derocha: It’s a love tap, I tell them.
Chuck Gaidica: It is. Okay.
Chef Kristin: And if you’re doing it in any kind of beverage, you can use that muddler. It’s really fun to do it.
Chuck Gaidica: And that’s kind of old school. Do you know what’s so fun is hearing both of you, especially with your entrepreneurial side now with your business and it’s taking off, and with your kids at home, you are involving kids. We’ve done this my whole life. I mean I grew up being the kid who licks the bowl. I’m just saying. So I was in the kitchen all the time. Before, during and especially after, right?
Grace Derocha: Right.
Chef Kristin: Good for you. That’s great.
Chuck Gaidica: But it’s good. It really is good.
Chef Kristin: It’s great. And it’s second nature to them now and it’s amazing how-
Grace Derocha: Well, and I feel like your daughter definitely, obviously, is in the kitchen. I see the Instagram stories.
Chef Kristin: Well… It’s like the chef whose family has no interest in being… I think they just know I’m going to do it.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, but that’s not exclusive to chefs either. I mean if you’re a car mechanic, probably the kids are now changing the oil, right?
Chef Kristin: Right. That’s true.
Chuck Gaidica: All right. Let’s talk about cinnamon. It seems so pleasantly benign, like, “Oh, it’s just cinnamon. It’s great on toast and it’s great in my cereal and stuff.”
Grace Derocha: I love cinnamon. The thing that I love about cinnamon is that it adds sweet flavor without actually adding sugar or sugar calories. And there is some research to show, this is a big one when we’re talking about people that have diabetes, that cinnamon can help kind of control those blood sugars, kind of slows down the potential spike of added sugar in dishes.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh interesting.
Grace Derocha: And it is one of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any spice out there so, all good things.
Chuck Gaidica: Have I seen capsules? Is that just my imagination that somebody’s actually packaged cinnamon were-
Grace Derocha: I just rolled my eyes.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, but I mean, you know, you see this all the time. People hear. It becomes a bandwagon issue and people jump on it and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen, you know, “Take all of this and it’s great for us.”
Chef Kristin: I’m sure you have.
Grace Derocha: You have, for sure because cinnamon got popular with some of the things I said. Also helps inflammation but please, use cinnamon. You don’t have to take the pills.
Chuck Gaidica: In your dishes, you don’t need to-
Grace Derocha: Cook with it. Add it in your coffee. Add it in your tea. Add it on your oatmeal. Add it on your… There’s like, put it-
Chef Kristin: My daughter just dumps it on her applesauce and she doesn’t get sick very often. I mean, I really think it helps her. For sure. For sure.
Grace Derocha: I put cinnamon in peanut butter and then I dip my apples in it. It’s one of my favorite, favorite meals.
Chef Kristin: Oh.
Chuck Gaidica: I’ve never done that.
Chef Kristin: That is a great idea.
Grace Derocha: It’s my favorite snack of life.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Chef Kristin: That is a great idea.
Grace Derocha: Crunchy peanut butter, smooth peanut butter. I don’t care what kind, I put cinnamon in it. Or even when I’m making coffee, I put cinnamon grounds before I brew and it adds lots of flavor. Then I don’t need the extra sugar or cream.
Chuck Gaidica: Good tips. Now, ginger, we know forever, if you’re listening outside of Michigan, you will think of ginger ale. In Detroit and Michigan, we think of Vernors. Buy a brand name, right? You get a little upset stomach for whatever reason. People here forever have said, “Go get some Vernors.” Doesn’t matter. The real kind, the diet kind. But let’s talk about ginger. Real ginger. Is it really a go-to when your stomach is upset?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chef Kristin: Aids in nausea.
Grace Derocha: Yes. One gram of ginger can treat most nausea. That’s medicinal.
Chuck Gaidica: Now what would a gram be? You’re talking about shaving off the root? A gram of whatever you’ve gotten off of there?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So, I think it would be about like thumbnail.
Chef Kristin: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So I mean, not a big amount but certainly not just a dash.
Grace Derocha: You’re probably not going to want to, I mean, I did chew on it. My mom is like, “Here.” Lola’s special Asian secrets.
Chef Kristin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It can be a little strong on the palette.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. It’s potent. But some people get crystallized ginger for nausea, which would help.
Chef Kristin: They have drops, I think. A friend of mine had some lozenges.
Grace Derocha: So yeah. Everything you said, helps with gut health, helps with digestive issues, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting. Ginger is a friend.
Chuck Gaidica: So there’s the notion too of maybe motion sickness and that kind of thing so it’s not just in your gut, it could well be something you’re a little off. Maybe the kids are traveling in the car, you know?
Chef Kristin: Sure.
Grace Derocha: My mom gets seasick and she always would have ginger to help.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, wow.
Grace Derocha: Or like people with vertigo.
Chef Kristin: So would it… I’m thinking, is it going to prevent the seasickness or it’s just going to make you feel better.
Grace Derocha: It’s going to make you feel better. Unfortunately, it’s probably still going to happen if you get that. It’s going to help you feel better pretty quickly.
Chuck Gaidica: So what’s another one we could talk about? Oregano? Obviously, it’s a go-to for a lot of different dishes. What would be some of the upside benefits to that?
Grace Derocha: So it has vitamins K and E. Those are fat-soluble vitamins. It’s high in antioxidants. I think it has actually, I think it has calcium and iron, which is great.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: But I love oregano.
Chef Kristin: I do too.
Chuck Gaidica: It would seem to me that if you go all-in in everything you are talking about in today’s episode, if it’s a regular use thing, because how much oregano really is there? I know you put a lot in a big giant stew pot but-
Chef Kristin: Right. How much are you ingesting? Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: But if you’re really making this a practice in your cooking and your life of your family, I would think over time you will see these benefits because one little dash in the applesauce one time may not help you.
Chef Kristin: Right. But if it’s a daily practice and it helps to have those things on your countertop and have them stored in your fridge and your freezer and accessible so it’s easy to use.
Grace Derocha: Yes. Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: All right. So then, this one I know I’ve seen in capsules being sold now. Do you say tumeric? Tumeric. I’ve heard both.
Chef Kristin: Turmeric.
Chuck Gaidica: Turmeric, yeah?
Chuck Gaidica: So tell us why it’s so good because you see this pop up, and I’m not looking for it on social media or any searches, but I’m seeing it pop up all the time. Once a month I’ll see it mentioned for some reason.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. The main thing is that tumeric has curcumin, which is very big in helping with inflammation in the body but, I have to, anyone listening, if you’re going to have tumeric, you have to have it as the same time as black pepper. If you don’t have black pepper with it, you will not absorb the curcumin, which is what you want for those properties.
Grace Derocha: So, it’s funny because one of my girlfriends, she’s a dancer and she was taking tumeric and I looked at her supplement, and there was no black pepper in it as well. And some of them have it together right away. Either if you’re going to take this, take it at a meal where you’re having black pepper so you can open up those cells to absorb the curcumin so you can get that. That really helps with inflammation in the body, which can help with so many things whether it just be like physical inflammation like if someone has arthritis or gout or is exercising and needs to reduce but also just like organ inflammation for better health.
Chuck Gaidica: So we were talking about ethnic foods. Are there certain kinds of food where you would see tumeric… Am I saying it right? Because I’ve just heard it a few different ways myself.
Grace Derocha: I know. I feel like I say it wrong.
Chuck Gaidica: How do you say it again, Kristin?
Chef Kristin: Turmeric. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Turmeric.
Grace Derocha: And I say tumeric.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. I think it’s like Lahser or Lasher. We kind of, we know what we’re talking about when we go there.
Chef Kristin: The Michigan’s.
Grace Derocha: Because the R is before the M so turmeric makes sense but how tumeric-
Chef Kristin: You have to get used to it. You have to get used to saying it that way.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, turmeric. So is there a certain dish that we would typically want to put this in that makes sense?
Chef Kristin: Oh, that’s a really good question. Do you know of one?
Grace Derocha: I feel like often you’ll see it in Indian food because it’s mixed with curries, you know. So definitely that. I have oh, this is actually a sweet dish, which you usually don’t see. I make a green tea oatmeal. So instead of water or milk, I make green tea and I…
Chuck Gaidica: Oh interesting.
Grace Derocha: And then I put turmeric.
Chuck Gaidica: But is that savory or you add something-
Grace Derocha: So that one’s sweet, yeah. There’s honey.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, okay. Okay.
Grace Derocha: But then I also… There was this chickpea stew that was in the New York Times that I literally make all the time.
Chef Kristin: Yeah, I’ve made a vegan dish like that. It’s a stew, with chickpea and lentils.
Grace Derocha: I feel like more than anything, there’s a flavor but it adds a really pretty color.
Chef Kristin: The color.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, it does do that. And you know, back to the health benefits, there are all kinds of studies that come out. We’ve talked about that previous episodes. From one episode of our podcast to the next, the study may change, but there are some that have pointed out that anti-inflammatory for turmeric and also, it’s actually been shown to kill cancerous cells.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: That blows your mind.
Grace Derocha: The amount of antioxidants that fight the free radicals, which are the cancer-causing or even aging cells, is huge. And I think you brought up earlier how you’ve seen this everywhere.
Grace Derocha: One of the things that I want, I always want people to be cautioned of is, I call it green-washing. You will see something that says, “This energy bar has turmeric” and then they try it and it doesn’t taste so good because those two things probably don’t really usually go together. So instead of taking that information and maybe using it in a real dish where it might taste good, instead of then maybe hating it because you’re like, “Oh I heard it’s so good for you.” And then they try something and it’s green-washed with that label. Like, “This has turmeric.” I’m going to practice saying it.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, I want to admit something to you. You know you can find all kinds of these examples on social media but the old fashioned spit take, what comedians used to do, chug some water, you tell me something important and… Okay, someone gives me that little tiny, narrow bag that says, “Turmeric and black pepper. Add to your coffee.” So I get my coffee made and I put it in there and I sip this stuff, and I’ve already admitted to you in this episode, I’ll try nearly anything including Chia Pet pudding. And I turn my head with this stuff. Those two things don’t belong in coffee. I’m just saying they don’t.
Grace Derocha: That’s what I’m saying. That is exactly what I’m talking about.
Chef Kristin: It’s a forced application.
Grace Derocha: Like my adding cinnamon is great but please don’t put black pepper in and turmeric in coffee.
Chef Kristin: Sure.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, it was not good.
Chef Kristin: Oh, I have a funny story about that. My sister-in-law, we were at her house. She was going to add cinnamon to the coffee. Cumin.
Grace Derocha: No.
Chuck Gaidica: No. No.
Chef Kristin: So we still laugh about it to this day and she would-
Grace Derocha: She made a Mexican coffee.
Chef Kristin: Yeah, it was really fiesta. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow. So let’s go back and let’s just retrace our steps about putting these different spices and herbs into some food dishes because we are getting the benefits of, and you’ve talked about a big one, reducing sodium in your diet.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean, I’m trying. I’m on my Lose It! App everyday and I’m trying to stay to 1500 milligrams of sodium. Not as tough as you think once you get into it. It’s not easy but it’s not so tough.
Grace Derocha: For you.
Chuck Gaidica: Really.
Grace Derocha: But honestly, the average American is consuming about 35 to 3600 milligrams of sodium a day. So over double what you’re having.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Grace Derocha: And the recommendation for general good health is 2300 milligrams a day of table salt which is a teaspoon.
Chuck Gaidica: And see, when you say table salt, you’re talking about the stuff you may know. I’m tracking literally, if I see a can of something, I’m going to put in what is in there because that’s where it’s being put and you don’t even know it. You just think the green beans taste good when you take them out of a can, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Exactly.
Chef Kristin: Right.
Grace Derocha: And so-
Chef Kristin: The preservatives and kidney.
Grace Derocha: … if anyone has high blood pressure or is at risk for it or has a family history, 1500 milligrams is a better place to kind of sit and be but that’s less than a teaspoon of salt a day. A day.
Chuck Gaidica: But see, I’m spicing it up with other stuff. I mean, I didn’t just mention Mrs. Dash because she’s my grandma. I mean, I actually use stuff like this and you two are experts. I’m just using it because I know it does add a little something-something to the food and I’m not missing the salt when I’m cooking.
Chef Kristin: And I’ve found, like I was mentioning earlier, the addition of acids to some of your dishes, so lemon juice, lime juice, vinegars, those can really boost the flavor and you don’t miss that salt as much in soups and all different applications.
Grace Derocha: I feel it’s so important.
Grace Derocha: Kahlea’s dishes, actually, you’ll be so proud. Kahlea’s seven and I was cooking and she’s like, “Did you put any acid in that?”
Chef Kristin: Oh, good girl.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, is that good. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: I know. She’s like, “Because I remember you bought lemons and limes and you usually put some in there.”
Grace Derocha: And I was like, “You’re awesome.”
Chuck Gaidica: All right. Do you ever, either one of you, make your own olive oils? Are you ever putting rosemary in so you’re infusing your own?
Chef Kristin: Oh for sure.
Chuck Gaidica: Because you see these places that popped up at the mall.
Grace Derocha: I do garlic.
Chef Kristin: Absolutely. Totally did that last year with a lot of my herbs at the end of the season. I highly recommend it. Yeah, don’t go to the stores. You can absolutely do it yourself. It’s literally like putting it in the bottle. Yeah, and the garlic, great idea.
Grace Derocha: Garlic is good. It’s so good.
Chuck Gaidica: And we also know we’re driving over to your house to pick bay leaves out of the garage now because there must be a bushel basket from the way you made it sound. So we’ll be at the-
Grace Derocha: I’m driving to her house to eat.
Chef Kristin: Anytime you need bay leaves, call me.
Grace Derocha: I’m driving over to eat.
Chuck Gaidica: All right. So what if you mentioned green tea, what if I want to have a healthful tea, maybe, I mean we’re still not out of kind of warm weather, but when we get into the winter weather, fall, we want some tea to keep us warm but also the healthful benefits, get a little sniffly, what can we put in our tea that’s real that will help us?
Grace Derocha: Mint.
Chef Kristin: Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. Rosemary, maybe?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Really?
Chef Kristin: Yeah. Honestly, I think you can take anything that appeals to you, and apply it. And don’t be afraid to try those new things that you’ve never tried before or even combining herbs together.
Grace Derocha: I do a mint ginger tea.
Chef Kristin: Oh, that’s a great idea with the ginger.
Grace Derocha: It’s so good.
Chef Kristin: And cinnamon.
Chuck Gaidica: And are you ever afraid of combining?
Chef Kristin: No, I’m not. I’m a real risk-taker in my herb garden.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, Grace mentioned pairing and I know you weren’t just talking about which white wine goes with whatever, right? But you’d have to be careful, in my mind anyway, I guess it’s just the way I’m thinking… If you start experimenting, some tastes may not go with other tastes.
Chef Kristin: Absolutely. You’re right. You’re right. And so you just want to start experimenting yourself, and like I said, don’t be afraid to try something new and to try it in a different way. And I think if you want to talk about pairing some things, I love to just go, like I said, just go in the garden and see what’s plentiful, bring it in the house and then kind of go from there. And mix and match.
Chef Kristin: And then also some things that I’ve been doing, we talked about the mint with the caprese salad, so like a spin on the traditional caprese salad. I do a peach and a mozzarella, and that mint. You could do basil. You could do both of them.
Grace Derocha: Burrata instead of the mozzarella. It’s so good.
Chef Kristin: So it’s really just about taking it into your kitchen and just jumping in and not being afraid.
Grace Derocha: And I think maybe if you are newer to cooking, maybe you try one thing first and see if, “Do I like rosemary? Let’s put it in this soup today,” and play with it there and then, “I like this” or yeah-
Chuck Gaidica: And then there’s the varied amounts, right? I mean you don’t have to go gung-ho and go take the whole thing of bay leaves and put them all in at the same time in the pea soup.
Chef Kristin: Exactly. Exactly. Right.
Grace Derocha: Well, and I feel like, this is a question I had in the past and again, Kristin has enlightened me… All right, so I’m going to let you explain it but oftentimes, people ask, “When should I put my herbs and spices in while I’m cooking?” Take it away.
Chef Kristin: So I think, absolutely, you want to be building those layers of flavor as you’re cooking, especially it you’re doing things like soups and braises and things that take a long time to cook and maybe you’re doing this low and slow. So I think introducing them right away and then also finishing it off with some of those fresh herbs when you serve the dish, so then reintroducing that flavor.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s funny you say that because in our household, my wife will still defer to low and slow meaning a slow cooker or a pea soup or something, right? And we do use bay leaves, right?
Grace Derocha: I love a slow cooker.
Chef Kristin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chuck Gaidica: But toward the end, even if I’m using the Instant Pot, we’re putting in the fresher stuff toward the end, so that would be the proper order.
Chef Kristin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chuck Gaidica: So I can go home and tell her I got a star today.
Chef Kristin: You did.
Chuck Gaidica: During the podcast.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, that little bam, that finish at the end.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, but that is the right order.
Chef Kristin: Absolutely, and if I’m doing like a stew and I’m braising it in the oven for a couple of hours, I literally will just take that sprig of rosemary and drop it in and as that cooks over time, those leaves are just going to drop off and then I just remove the stem before I serve it. So you don’t have to make it complicated either, you know?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chef Kristin: You take off all the little leaves and-
Grace Derocha: Right. `It’s the worst part.
Chef Kristin: Right. I think people get intimidated by that and it’s not that technical.
Grace Derocha: I know I used to, for sure.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, for some of us, I’ll just speak for me, putting a twig in my meal doesn’t really seem like the right thing but then once you do it, you’re like, “Hey, that works.”
Grace Derocha: Yeah. It kind of kicked it up the food notches that you wanted.
Chef Kristin: Right. And if you’re making like a stock or a soup, you can also wrap those in cheesecloth and tie it with some twine, some baker’s twine and then that’s just infusing while you’re cooking and you just remove that at the end and you don’t have to worry about fishing it out.
Chuck Gaidica: And you’re not searching. Yeah.
Chef Kristin: It doesn’t seem so like you’re throwing this stick in there.
Chuck Gaidica: Right, right. All right. So we’ve talked about, as we wrap up, we’ve talked about this idea of coordinating flavors and things. I want to come back to this other takeaway tip because again, I think for me anyway, a huge aha factor in today’s episode was this idea of expiration times. Go over that one more time for everybody. What should we be thinking about for herbs and spices?
Chef Kristin: So go in your pantry. I suggest taking everything out, kind of doing that closet cleaning.
Grace Derocha: The Marie Kondo, yeah.
Chef Kristin: Take everything out. Look it over. Inspect it. Look for those expiration dates. There sometimes may not have one on there but I think if you feel like it’s been in there for more than three to six months, it might be time to dry your own herbs and restock for the winter, and you’ll be all set.
Chuck Gaidica: But couldn’t you just mark the bottle yourself if there’s no date so you know when you pick it up from A&P.
Chef Kristin: Absolutely. That’s a great…
Grace Derocha: Oh yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, I’m just saying.
Chef Kristin: That was good. That was good. Excellent idea. Excellent idea.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. All right. Anything to add to that? Because if we were to come check your kitchen, would we find turmeric before they put an R in it? I mean, do you have anything that goes back so far, Grace, that we have to be worried?
Grace Derocha: I don’t think so. I do remember when we got married, there was a point where, I don’t hate sage but I think you can use too much really easily. And the sage looked fuzzy and I was like, “This has to go.”
Chef Kristin: This is not normal.
Grace Derocha: We need to get some fresh sage.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, thank you both for everything today. Grace Derocha and Kristin Podolinski, thank you.
Chef Kristin: Thank you.
Grace Derocha: Thank you.
Chuck Gaidica: It was so good having you hear and learning so much because now I’m inspired. I’m going to go home. My wife is going to think I am just the coolest today. I’m going to come home with all these new answers.
Grace Derocha: Ooh. You guys should make salad dressing too. I think that’s a big one with herbs and spices.
Chuck Gaidica: So that’s like an infusion, though, right?
Chef Kristin: That’s one of my top ones. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Don’t you feel like you go to a restaurant and you have a salad there and I’m like, “This tastes so good” and then you go home and you have the bottle dressing. You’re like, “This does not taste good.”
Chef Kristin: No.
Grace Derocha: If you make your own salad dressing, you will love that you listened to this and you went and did that.
Chuck Gaidica: We just had a fresh-made… It was at a restaurant, to be fair, a fresh-made garlic Parmesan… I know that it was oil-based.
Chef Kristin: Vinaigrette
Chuck Gaidica: It’s a vinaigrette but it had oil but it was awesome.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, of course.
Chuck Gaidica: But you could tell they used everything fresh. It was just an amazing-
Chef Kristin: That is one of those game changers, I’m telling you. You will never see a bottled salad dressing in my house.
Grace Derocha: No.
Chef Kristin: It’s too easy to do yourself.
Grace Derocha: It’s literally so easy.
Chuck Gaidica: We’re coming over to your house. You let us know when.
Grace Derocha: We’re bringing our families.
Chuck Gaidica: Thank you, Kristin. Thank you, Grace.
Chef Kristin: Thank you.
Chuck Gaidica: Good to have you with us and we’re glad you tuned in today as well. Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like this show, by the by, you want to know more, check us out at
Chuck Gaidica: You can leave a review or a rating at iTunes and Stitcher. You can get new episodes on your smartphone or your tablet and don’t forget, we’ve got a lot of great previous episodes that you can get caught up on all kinds of cool stuff. Be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your favorite podcast app.
Chuck Gaidica: I’m Chuck Gaidica. Thanks for being with us. We’ll see you next time.

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