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Chef Nancy Waldeck's 7 favorite spices (3-minute class)

Chef Nancy Waldeck of Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont knows a thing or two about using spices in her healthy recipes. Not only do spices add flavor without fat and calories, they also pack their own nutritional benefits. Here she shares her favorite ingredients, interesting spice facts and cooking tips.

1. Ground chipotle pepper

A smoked jalapeno pepper becomes a chipotle pepper, which is ground into the spice known as chipotle chili powder. Use this pepper to add smoky flavor, heat and vitamin C to your meal.

2. Smoked paprika

The pepper used in smoked paprika is the same type used in Hungary to make regular paprika, but it's smoked over a fire before being ground into a spice.

"You've got tons of vitamin C in that smoked paprika and a really meaty taste," she says. "It's like bacon without bacon."

3. Cumin

"The cumin seed and ground cumin are used all over the world," says Waldeck. "It's a great herb for flavor and also to aid digestion."

4. Turmeric

This bright yellow spice comes from the turmeric root and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It's so powerful in fact, it is currently being used in cancer treatment clinical trials. It's also the spice that gives great flavor and color to curry and Mexican rice.

5. Garam masala

Garam masala is one of Waldeck's favorite spice blends.

"It may sound exotic, but it's full of spices we're used to seeing: coriander, cumin, cardamom, bay leaves and chili pepper," she explains.

The mix has a warm, spicy flavor and nutritional benefits: cumin aids digestion, chili pepper contains vitamin C and coriander may lower blood sugar, according to a 2011 study. You can find garam masala in nearly every grocery store.

6. Italian seasoning

A familiar spice for many, Italian seasoning adds a Mediterranean flare with basil, oregano, thyme and other herbs depending on the blend you select.

Basil, oregano and thyme all have a strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.

7. Ground ginger

"We love ginger for its flavor, but also because it adds that 'zing,'" she says.

Waldeck likes to layer both fresh and ground ginger in some of her dishes for extra flavor impact. The spice can also ease morning sickness, nausea, upset stomach and gas.

"Now you know about some of my favorite spices," she says. "I hope you'll enjoy using them, too."

See more nutrition and cooking tips.

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