Gluten-Free Raw Food – 5 Tips for Using Herbs and Spices to Enhance Flavor and Nutrition

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The post I wrote earlier in the week about avoiding food ruts on a gluten free, dairy free raw foods diet really generated lots of interest. One of the strategies I offered for avoiding food ruts was “Make friends with herbs and spices”.

This spawned a lot of questions and comments, so I thought I'd tell you more today. When eating a diet that's gluten free and predominantly raw foods, there's a learning curve. It's easy to become bored with your food unless you know how to use gluten free raw foods in interesting ways, using the magic of herbs and spices.

I love working with herbs. They are full of flavor, pack a strong nutritional punch and frequently have potent healing properties. Whenever I'm making up a new raw food gluten free recipe, or modifying one o my old favorites, I always look for ways to enhance the nutrition as well as the flavor. Many of the herbs and spices that are found in most kitchen spice racks are nutritional gems as well as flavor enhancers. Other nutritional gems can be added with little to no change in flavor and add nutritional punch to your gluten free and raw food recipes.

Today I’d like to share 5 tips for “Making friends with herbs and spices” that have become my favorite ways to fortify my foods nutritionally as well as make them taste superb.

1- Use granulated sea vegetables to enhance the mineral content and give your dishes a salty flavor. On the culinary end, the sea vegetable powders can give a dish a “fishy” flavor, which goes well with a “mock tuna” or “mock salmon” pate. All sea vegetables are high in iodine, which supports thyroid and estrogen metabolism, and iodine is very deficient in our soils. Besides, there are so many iodine antagonists in our environment, it’s important to have a consistent dietary source. Of course, like most good things, be careful of doing too much. I usually recommend 1-2 ounces of dry sea vegetables per week. If you have low thyroid function, take closer to 2 ounces. If you have an overactive thyroid, it’s best to keep the quantities lower. I love using powdered or granulated kelp because Japanese studies a few years ago found active T3 and T4, thyroid hormones, in a species of kelp called laminaria digitata.

2- Use anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric to spice up your dishes. These are herbs that are especially good at reducing inflammation and including them in your foods creates interesting flavors as well. I add both to my green smoothies, soups, salad dressings and marinades. One of my favorite ways to include ginger and turmeric is in a Thai soup I make called Pad Thai. In fact, we’ll be teaching a pad Thai recipe in our upcoming class “Thai Food Goes Raw: Sugar, Dairy and Gluten Free Recipes for Vibrant Health”. It’s live in Austin Texas, broadcast over the web and available afterward as an online video.

3- Indulge in the taste of Italy. The flavors that give Italian food its distinctive have strong antiviral and immune supportive qualities. Most notable for their immune support are garlic, thyme and oregano. Rosemary and basil stand up pretty well in this category as well. Of course fresh herbs are always best, and growing these is not that hard. Still, the most convenient way to use Italian herbs is to purchase an Italian Seasoning blend and sprinkle generously in a variety of dishes. Among my favorites are the sauce I put on raw versions of pizza and pasta. In October our class of the month is “Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pizza and Pasta: New Twists on Old Favorites” where we’ll teach the secrets to making the most amazing pizza, lasagna, rawvioli and more delicious and nutritious Italian favorites using all raw and living foods and lots of greens.

4- Fortify your food with bone building herbs horsetail, nettles and alfalfa. These herbs are neutral in flavor and pack big nutrition for bones, hair and nails. I like to create seasoning blends that include these along with more savory herbs like curry, Mexican seasonings or other ethnic blends.

5- Use aromatic herbs detoxification boosters like dill and caraway seeds. I love adding dill to creamy nut dips. In our bread class, we showed how to make omega 3 boosting butter, and dill was one of the ingredients that gave it that buttery mouth feel. Caraway makes any bread taste like rye, even if there’s no rye in it. We could have added caraway seeds any of the breads we taught in our “Amazing gluten free bread” class last month and made them taste very rye bread like. The videos of the class are now available at

I love it when culinary arts meet nutritional science in a marriage that brings out the best in both. The more you experiment with herbs and spices and learn about their nutritional and medicinal value, the more adept you’ll become at making your own wonderful recipes, and you’ll wonder how you ever could have been bored.

We created our Living Food Prep series of classes to remove the hum-drum-ness from your food prep, arm you with skills that you can use to create beautiful and delicious dishes your family will love and assist you in building the healthiest body possible.

Our class schedule for the remainder of 2010 is posted at

All classes are held live in Austin Texas, broadcast over the web and available afterwards as online video, beautifully organized by recipe so you can watch one recipe at a time in any order.

We’re running an introductory special now where you can sign up for the series, either live or online, and save lots of $$. The online class bundle is transferable, so if you sign up and can’t make one or more classes, you can give your space to a friend or family member.

When you sign up for the online/video bundle you get 4 classes for the price of 3.

Bottom line in making foods for yourself or your family is that you need to enjoy the process—of preparing it and eating it. The best way to do that is to learn as many new techniques as you can, familiarize yourself with a wider variety of foods and become friends with herbs and spices.

Health, Love and Joy to you!

Dr. Ritamarie

P.S. The early bird discounts are still in effect and there are still a few seats left for the live class, so check out our fall schedule here:

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